Shola von Reinhold and Jacaranda Books have won the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses with von Reinhold's debut novel Lote.
Lote was published as part of #Twentyin2020, Jacaranda’s project to publish 20 books by Black British authors in 2020, and has since been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prizes. It was unanimously chosen by the judging panel, consisting of previous winner Eley Williams, John Mitchinson and Guy Gunaratne, as their favourite work of fiction published by a small press in 2020, from a pool of more than 80 submissions.
Described as a "dazzling novel" by Mitchinson, the book explores central character Mathilda's obsession with the circle of creatives known collectively as the Bright Young Things of the 1920s, culminating in her discovery of a forgotten Black Scottish modernist poet.
Gunaratne said of the novel: "This stunning, formally inventive novel from Shola von Reinhold follows Mathilda, possessed of a superbly arch narrative voice, as she navigates a series of her own ‘transfixtions’ (visions, obsessive manias) around forgotten black Scottish modernist poet Hermia Druitt. Peopled with voices salvaged from liminal fissures as well as avant-garde couplings caricatured in a creepy ‘cold tinny argot’, von Reinhold’s rapturous queer attempt to reclaim and reframe the baroque and decadent, to reaffirm pleasure as the heart of the novel, reveals its force. At once a seriously funny novel rich with intrigue and suspense, it is also an indictment and a powerful decolonial response to historical and contemporary attempts to curate art and art history within the calcified mould of European conservatism."
The book won from a shortlist featuring A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press), Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman (Peninsula Press), Costa Prize-winner The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press) and A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti, translated by Fionn Petch (Charco Press)
Each shortlisted book received £3,000 overall, split between the publisher (66%) and the author (33%). Von Reinhold will receive an additional £1,000 on top of this, while Jacaranda Books receives a further £2,500. The money is raised from three sources, including a grant from the Granta Trust, sponsorship from the UEA Publishing Project, and money raised by the Republic of Consciousness Book of the Month programme.
The prize rewards outstanding literary fiction published by small presses based in the UK and Ireland with no more than five full-time employees. It is open to both novels and single-author short story collections in English, either originally or in translation, as long as it is the first time it has been published in the UK and Ireland. It will open again for submissions in September 2021.
Neill Griffiths, founder of the prize, said: “This has been a special year for the prize. Not only have we have the most formally and culturally diverse longlist in five years, it was this year we were able to fulfil an ambition: to reward the whole of the longlist. In contradistinction to all other prizes, we gave away half the prize fund to the longlist – 10 presses – and divided the rest with the shortlist – press and writer equally. And what a winner we have this year. Shola von Reinhold has written a watershed novel: a novel that challenges that popular notion that constraint generates freedom – Lote is unconstrained, abundant, and possesses a surplus of energy that makes the reading experience thrilling in ways more accomplished novelists can only dream about.”