Kevin Barry's Beatlebone (Canongate) has been named the winner of the £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize 2015 in recognition of “writing at its most novel”.
The announcement was made at a ceremony in Foyles bookshop this evening (November 11th) on London's Charing Cross Road.
Described by the Irish Times as “profound, funny, hard to pin down”, Barry's novel imagines The Beatles' John Lennon returning to Dorinish in 1978, an island he owns off the West Coast of Ireland, to undertake a course of primal scream therapy. The result is “an exploration of the strange and wonderful, time and place – with the struggle for art at its very heart”.
Barry was crowned the winner after fighting off competition from five other shortlisted titles - Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard (Harvill Secker); The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills (Bloomsbury); Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (Cape); Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Faber & Faber); and Lurid & Cute by Adam Thirlwell (Cape) - as judged by an expert panel consisting of author and inaugural Goldsmiths Prize winner Eimear McBride, author Jon McGregor, journalist Leo Robson and chair of judges Professor Josh Cohen, who is Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths.
Prof Cohen said: “Intricately weaving and blurring fiction and life, Beatlebone embodies beautifully this prize’s spirit of creative risk. We’re proud to crown it our winner.”
The Goldsmiths Prize was launched in 2013 with the goal of "celebrating the spirit of creative daring" associated with Goldsmiths University of London and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form. It was founded in association with the New Statesman.
Culture editor for the New Statesman, Tom Gatti said: “In providing a reward for fiction that isn’t afraid to take risks, the Goldsmiths Prize encourages readers, editors and booksellers to be daring too. The New Statesman is proud to champion a prize that consistently unearths the year’s most exciting fiction: Kevin Barry’s thrilling, virtuoso novel Beatlebone is no exception.”
Eimear McBride was the first Goldsmiths Prize winner for her work A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press) – with the victory coming nearly a decade after the work was rejected by publishers for being "too experimental".
Last year saw Ali Smith triumph with her work How To Be Both (Penguin). Smith recently credited the Goldsmiths Prize as an industry game-changer for encouraging publishers to embrace experimental works. She said: "The change it’s made is that publishers, who never take risks in anything, are taking risks on works which are much more experimental than they would’ve two years ago. That to me, is like a miracle. And that’s the Goldsmiths prize."
The Prize is open to novels written by authors from the UK or the Republic of Ireland, and was created in conjunction with the Goldsmiths Writers' Centre, headed by author Professor Blake Morrison, which hosts events aimed at encouraging new writing and stimulating debate about literature.
Last month, The New Statesman revealed it had teamed up with publisher Virago to launch a new literary prize for women writing about economics or politics in order to address the “under-representation” of female writers in those fields. The Virago New Statesman Women’s Prize for Politics & Economics will give a début woman writer a contract for an essay to be published as a Virago e-book, followed by an option to contract for a full-length book.