Counternarratives by John Keene (Fitzcarraldo Editions) has won the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses, for its "once in a generation achievement for short form fiction".
Launched by novelist Neil Griffiths, the prize celebrates small presses producing "brilliant and brave literary fiction” in the UK and Ireland. Griffiths intends for the prize to help support literary fiction and the kinds of publishers who are “willing to take risks”. The award money will be split, with two thirds going to the press and a third going to the author.
A unanimous choice amongst six judges, Counternarratives was awarded the main £3,000 prize for its "subject matter, formal inventiveness, multitude of voices, and seriousness of purpose transform a series of thematically linked stories into a complete work of art". Ranging from the 17th century to our current moment, and crossing multiple continents, Counternarratives' stories and novellas draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to create “new and strange” perspectives on our past and present.
Goldsmith's Prize-winning Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Tramp Press) and Martin John by Anakana Schofield (And Other Stories), were the runners up and will receive £1,000 each.
Solar Bones was honoured for it's "formal elegance" and "quiet profundity". The judges said that the novel that "sets a new bar for fiction about a family. No other novel we've ever read portrays the lived experience of dying with such precision."
Martin John, a novel about public sexual exposure and pathological behaviour, "makes no judgment: it renders Martin John’s world with phenomenological honesty. It is a moral act", the judges said.
The RofC Special Award for Best First Book went to Galley Beggar Press for Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge, which also received £1,000.
Forbidden Line was chosen by Griffiths for its "almost uncontainable exuberance. A no net, high-wire act of the imagination. This novel will be a cult classic for a while. But it will be a classic for much longer".
The prize was judged by Sam Fisher of Burley Fisher in Hackney; Gary Perry at Foyles; Lyndsy Kirkman from Chapter One Books, Manchester; Gillian Robertson of Looking Glass books, Edinburgh, and co-chair Marcus Wright.
The prizes were awarded tonight (Thursday 9th March) by literary critic Nicholas Lezard at London's Fyvie Hall.