Jessica Au named inaugural winner of The Novel Prize

Jessica Au named inaugural winner of The Novel Prize

Jessica Au has been awarded the $10,000 2020 Novel Prize for her Tokyo-set second novel Cold Enough for Snow.

The Novel Prize is a new, biennial award for a book-length, unpublished work of literary fiction written in English by writers around the world. It was launched last spring to reward novels that “explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style”. Run by London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions, Australian press Giramondo and New York’s New Directions, as well as the cash prize, the winner gets to be published simultaneously by the three publishers in their respective territories, in the UK and Ireland, in Australia and New Zealand, and in North America.

The prize's inaugural winner, Cold Enough for Snow, was selected from close to 1,500 submissions worldwide and will be published in early 2022. The book is about a daughter and mother who travel to Tokyo in autumn, and is described as “at once a careful reckoning and an elegy, one that questions whether any of us speak a common language, and what right we have to truly know another’s inner world”.

Au, who is based in Melbourne, said she was “thrilled” by the prospect of being published by all three publishers, as “a huge admirer of all”.

“They all have such a rare sense of commitment to literature which, as a reader, I find both necessary and nourishing, as well as wonderful histories,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be one of the many authors on their lists, and excited to be working with them over the coming year.”

Her first novel Cargo was published by Picador in 2011, and it was highly commended in the Kathleen Mitchell Award for a writer under 30. She is the former deputy editor of Australian literary journal Meanjin, and is currently an associate editor at digital magazine Aeon. 

Jacques Testard, publisher at Fitzcarraldo Editions, said setting up The Novel Prize had involved “a huge amount of work” over the past year but it “was all worth it”, praising Au’s winning novel Cold Enough for Snow “a stellar addition to the Fitzcarraldo Editions list”.

The other shortlisted titles for the 2020 Novel Prize were: Glenn Diaz’s Yñiga, in which a former university teacher’s life is upended by an army general who goes into hiding in her Manila neighborhood; Emily Hall’s The Longcut, about the place of art and the artist in the world; Christine Lai’s Landscapes, set in both contemporary England and in a near future fraught with ecological devastation; Nora Lange’s Us Fools, a tragicomic family drama narrated over two decades by two precocious sisters; and Lani Yamamoto’s Ours and Others, a metaphysical mystery.

Prior to launching The Novel Prize, Fitzcarraldo Editions ran an annual novel prize for authors resident in the UK and Ireland, the last winner of which was Adam Mars-Jones in 2019 for his 1970s biker love story Box Hill.