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Gardam and McBride on inaugural Folio Prize shortlist
10.02.14 | Sarah Shaffi
British novelist Jane Gardam and Irish writer Eimear McBride are on the shortlist for the inaugural Folio Prize.
However the shortlist, revealed early today (10th February) after the embargo was broken on social media, is dominated by US authors.
Debut novelist Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press), which last autumn won the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, will go up against works including Last Friends (Little, Brown), the third in the Old Filth trilogy by Yorkshire-born 85-year-old Jane Gardam. Gardam won the Whitbread Prize (now the Costa Prize) for best children’s book in 1981 for The Hollow Land (Walker Books) and for best novel in 1991 for The Queen of the Tambourine (Abacus).
Also shortlisted is Anne Carson’s Red Doc (Jonathan Cape), a mix of poetry, drama and narrative. Canadian Carson was the first woman to win the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, for her collection The Beauty of the Husband (also Jonathan Cape) in 2001.
Five US authors are shortlisted. Quercus, which recently announced it is for sale, has one nomination for A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava, which is published by the Maclehose Press imprint. The book was originally self-published by the author in 2008. The others in the shortlist are The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Harvill Secker); Schroder by Amity Gaige (Faber & Faber); Benediction, the third book in the Plainsong trilogy by Kent Haruf (Picador); and short-story collection Tenth of December by PEN/Hemingway Award finalist George Saunders (Bloomsbury).
The list was announced at a ceremony at the British Library.
Lavinia Greenlaw, chair of judges, said: "Of course it was striking to realise we had chosen a significant proportion of North American writers but this prize is open to all English language work and the scale of North America means North America will probably have a significant presence."
Andrew Kidd, founder of the Folio Prize, said: "To our mind it seemed perverse that we would have launched a prize in 2013 that was anything other than borderless. Most of the British writers I have spoken with were thrilled by the idea that they weren't receiving any special attention. I think this year this is how it turned out. Who knows how it might turn out next year. I don't think it reflects that there is any issue with writing here or anywhere else."
Greenlaw added: "We didn't set out with a template in mind and fill it with eight books. What we were attracted to was an artistic ambition in that it wasn't just clever and was full of sharp angles that created a dynamic read. These books are utterly unlike each other. It is about authors taking risks and doing things that should fail but pulling them off."
Foyles web editor Jonathan Ruppin called the shortlist "a real statement of intent by the judges, with a clear emphasis on authors with distinctive and unusual approaches to writing." He said: "The inclusion of a collection of short stories and a verse novel indicates a belief in writers who chose their medium for its artistic rather than commercial possibilities. There is no doubt that the Prize intends to reward serious literary endeavour and those writers who are innovative in their use of language."
Ruppin added: “The dominance of American writers is the biggest talking point, as it pre-empts the widespread suggestion that opening up the Man Booker Prize to writers beyond the Commonwealth this year is likely to produce a similarly skewed longlist.
“The presence of three first-time authors is a little surprising; their lack of experience means they tend to be scarce on major prize shortlists, but all three have already been widely acclaimed as ground-breaking."
The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel on Monday 10th March.
The Folio Prize aims to recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world published in the UK, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin.
Toby Hartwell, m.d. of The Folio Society, sponsor of The Folio Prize, also announced The Folio Prize Fiction Festival in partnership with the British Library, which will feature judges, shortlisted authors and members of the Academy.