Clarke wins with Piranesi at the Kitschies

Clarke wins with Piranesi at the Kitschies

Susanna Clarke has won the 2020 £1,000 Red Tentacle prize for the novel category of the Kitschies Award, with her "exceptional, beautiful yet disturbing book" Piranesi (Bloomsbury), with The Big Green Bookshop's Simon Key also honoured.

The awards, which celebrate speculative and fantastic fiction were announced in a Zoom ceremony held this evening (Wednesday 21st July), during which the directors announced the creation of a new category, the Golden Key for Unpublished Manuscripts, which will be added to the awards line-up from 2021. The Kitschies Awards are sponsored by Blackwell's.

Piranesi was published in 2020, 16 years after Clarke's debut. It lfollows the eponymous character as he navigates his house, set in the world of a "watery labyrinth". Judge Clare Rees said: "Piranesi is an exceptional book: beautiful yet disturbing, exciting and joyous. Every word felt exquisitely placed, and it’s unlike anything we’ve ever read." Clarke will receive a a hand-crafted tentacle trophy in addition to the £1,000 prize money.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (Hodder & Stoughton) won the Golden Tentacle for Debut, with the author receiving £500 and a tentacle trophy. The prize was presented by Rees, who described the novel as an "intelligent and gripping story negotiating privilege and relationships".

The winner of the Inky Tentacle for Cover Design is art director Allison Saltzman, who received the prize for The Arrest by Jonathan Letham (Atlantic Books), receiving £500 and a tentacle trophy.

Inky Tentacle judge Fleur Clark said: "For our fantastic shortlist, the story starts before you open the books: it starts on the covers. They ask questions, they make you feel uncomfortable, they ask you to look closer, and set the wheels of the story in motion. And none so much as The Arrest, a cover that gives you a window into a world where things are gloriously weird. We could mention its retrofuturism, its maximalism, its brilliant detail, but our first thought was ‘that’s bonkers – we need to find out what’s going on here'."

The Glentacle—named after former Kitschies director Glen Mehn, who died in 2019—is  awarded to a person or group who contributed something significant to the book community. This year's proze has gone to Key, owner of the Big Green Bookshop in Hastings. 

"The Glentacle exists to allow us to recognise something that doesn’t fit the Kitschies’ criteria but which we believe deserves recognition," award directors Leila Abu el Hawa and Anne Perry said of Key's win. "His 'Buy a Stranger a Book' initiative every Wednesday allowed readers to access books during a tumultuous and difficult year, at a time that even libraries were closed. This deceptively straightforward initiative brought joy to hundreds of readers across the UK during a time when joy could sometimes feel in short supply."