Colm Tóibín’s ‘The Magician’ wins Rathbones Folio prize

Irish novelist Colm Tóibín has won the £30,000 Rathbones Folio prize for The Magician, a fictionalised biography of the writer Thomas Mann.

The Magician — which was written during Colm Tóibín’s experience of chemotherapy in 2018 — follows the life of the German Nobel winner Thomas Mann.

A statement from this year’s Rathbones Folio judges called Colm Tóibín’s novel a “capacious, generous, ambitious novel, taking in a great sweep of 20th-century history, yet rooted in the intimate detail of one man’s private life”.

Colm Tóibín 2
Photo: Salva López for The New Yorker

Colm Tóibín has been nominated for the Rathbone Folio prize once before, as well as being nominated for the Booker thrice. This win, he says, “feels gratifying.”

“It was a difficult book to write. Researching it took 15 years, but the task was to make it read as the story of a family in a turbulent time rather than a piece of historical research,” he said.

Having beat this year’s Booker prize-winner, Damon Galgut’s The Promise, for the top spot, Tóibín said it was “a surprise” to win. As reported by the Guardian, “he has no idea what he’ll do with the prize money yet, and is currently busy teaching at New York’s Columbia University. In May, he plans to continue work on a new book that is a ‘kind of sequel to [his much-loved 2009 novel] Brooklyn.'”

The win tops off a great start to the year for Tóibín, who was recently announced as the new Laureate for Irish Fiction, taking over from writer Sebastian Barry.

The Magician is out now via Pan Macmillan.