David Szalay has won the £5,000 Gordon Burn Prize 2016 for All That Man Is, a collection of nine linked short stories published by Vintage imprint Jonathan Cape.
Szalay was announced as the winner of the prize at a special event at Durham Book Festival, a Durham County Council festival produced by New Writing North, on Friday evening (7th October).
His winning collection, also shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, was praised by the judges, novelists Jenn Ashworth and William Boyd, journalist and writer Rachel Cooke, and the artist and author Harland Miller, as "a really remarkable novel". The stories span Europe, from the suburbs of Prague to a cheap Cypriot hotel, and the experiences of nine men at different stages of life, as a portrait of 21st century manhood.
Szalay is the author of three previous novels: Spring, The Innocent and London and the South-East (all published by Vintage), for which he was awarded the Betty Trask and Geoffrey Faber Memorial prizes. In 2013 he was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.
Boyd said: “The overall standard of the shortlist – however individual the books – was exceptionally high. The merits of each title shone very brightly – fiction or non-fiction – and it was a difficult job to select a winner. It is an unusual but commendable feature of the prize that it will pit a novel against reportage or biography but the mix doesn’t seem to pose any problem, interestingly enough.
"Keeping Gordon Burn’s fiction and non-fiction in the back of our minds allowed us some real terms of reference in our necessarily subjective evaluation. As a result, in the final session, David Szalay’s All That Man Is emerged fairly swiftly as a front-runner. It is a novel – like Gordon’s fiction – that subtly changes the way you look at the contemporary world. A very rare effect, in fact. In addition, it is darkly funny, marvelously observant and written with a confidence and limpidity that make it a really remarkable novel.”
Cooke said: “I think our shortlist was strong: so varied, a football book next to a thriller, a family memoir snuggling up beside a book about art. In the end, though, All That Man Is stood out (to me) by a mile - a book that can, and will, be re-read, each time the reader finding something else funny, something else true. It's a witty book, sometimes savage, even, but it seems also to go places few novels and stories do now.... So many different kinds of men are portrayed here, in so many different places, and with so unsparing an eye. It's just fantastically well done. I feel incredibly excited that it's the one we chose. Judging prizes is never easy. But this was fairly straightforward in the end. David's book just seemed to float off into its own orbit.”
In addition to a £5,000 prize pot, Szalay will have the opportunity to undertake a writing retreat of up to three months at Gordon Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire.
He overcame competition on the shortlist from A Woman on the Edge of Time: A Son’s Search for his Mother by Jeremy Gavron (Scribe), The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing (Picador), Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press), Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker (Faber & Faber), and And the Sun Shines Now by Adrian Tempany (Faber & Faber).
Last year's winner was Dan Davies for In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile (Quercus).
The prize, founded in 2012 to celebrate the legacy of the late author, is run in partnership by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North, Faber & Faber and Durham Book Festival, and seeks to celebrate the writing of those whose work follows in Gordon Burn's footsteps.