On October 6, the Goldsmiths Prize announced its shortlist of groundbreaking novels by British and Irish writers. The £10,000 prize, organized in association with the new statesman, celebrates fiction that “breaks the mold and expands the possibilities of novel form”.
Leone Ross makes the shortlist with her first novel in 22 years. At Ross’s This single sky dayan exuberant work of magical realism that spanned 15 years, is one of six books in the running for the 2021 Goldsmiths Prize. Ross’s third novel – after being shortlisted for the Orange Prize All the blood is red (1996) and orange laugh (1999) – follows a pair of star-crossed lovers during a day on a fictional Caribbean archipelago.
Ross, who was born in England and raised in Jamaica, is joined on the shortlist by two early novelists. Rebecca Watson, assistant art editor FinancialTimeshas been shortlisted for small scratch, a wildly experimental book that also takes place over one day and gets inside the head of a protagonist living in the aftermath of a sexual assault. The reader inhabits his thoughts as he performs administrative tasks at his desk, typography jumping across the page in rhythm, like verses.
The other first novelist on the shortlist is Natasha Brown, who worked for a decade in financial services. At 100 pages, Assembly is the shortest novel on the list. Powerful and tense, it follows a black British woman as she prepares to attend a garden party at her white boyfriend’s family estate. The Goldsmiths Prize judge and new statesman contributing writer Johanna Thomas-Corr described Assembly as “a small but searing view of Britain’s elite and their toxic relationship with immigration, labor and sexual politics”.
Isabelle Waidner is the only author on this year’s shortlist to have already been nominated for the award: We are made of diamonds was on the shortlist in 2019. Their third novel Sterling karat gold follows Sterling after they are arrested one morning. The surreal yet prescient book acts as an investigation into the effects of state violence on gender non-conforming, working class, and black people.
Is also nominated Crate 19the second book by Claire-Louise Bennett, who grew up in Wiltshire, lives in Ireland and received the inaugural award in 2013 Mock exam Short story award. Bennett’s unnamed protagonist pulls together memories of her time at school and college, spinning a hallucinogenic tale where certainty and uncertainty collide to become one and the same. It’s an ode to reading and an exploration of the fickle nature of storytelling.
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A shock by Keith Ridgway, born in Dublin, author of Hawthorn & Child, completes the shortlist. Novelist and Goldsmiths judge Kamila Shamsie called it “a novel of in-between places that keeps the reader off balance with startling, clever and sometimes eerie effect”.
“These books are resolutely singular and are not afraid to take risks; side by side, they represent the most exhilarating fiction of the year,” said memoirist and novelist Nell Stevens, who chairs the jury this year. Alongside Thomas-Corr and Shamsie, the jury is completed by Fred D’Aguiar, novelist, poet and professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The shortlist announcement followed a talk, “My Study Hates Your Study”, given online by Lucy Ellmann, winner of the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize for Ducks, Newburyport. Previous recipients of the award include Mr John Harrison, for The sunken earth begins to rise againEimear McBride, for A girl is a half-formed thingand Ali Smith, for How to be both.
Authors have been invited to present online readings, hosted by the Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, on October 20. The winner of the prize will be announced during an online ceremony on November 10. This person will then appear online on the Cambridge Literary Festival November 18.
The full list of Goldsmiths Prize 2021 finalists:
- Claire-Louise Bennett, Crate 19 (Cap Jonathan)
- Natasha Brown, Assembly (Hamish Hamilton)
- Keith Ridgway, A shock (Picador)
- Leon Ross, This single sky day (Faber & Faber)
- Isabelle Waidner, Sterling karat gold (peninsula press)
- Rebecca Watson, small scratch (Faber & Faber).