By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Brave and Bold Literary Fiction’
In its second year, the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses in the UK has announced a six-publishing-house shortlist at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing on Monday (February 19).
The prize, created in 2016 by an author named Neil Griffiths, is meant to honor “brave and bold literary fiction” produced by independent publishers from the UK and Ireland.
With a mandate to reward novels, translations, or collections of short stories by a single author of any nationality. To be eligible, an independent house must have no more than five full-time employees.
The shortlisted independent titles and their small presses are:
- Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams (Influx)
- Blue Self-Portrait by Noemi Lefevbre (Les Fugitives)
- Darker with the Lights On by David Haydn (Little Island Press)
- Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (Charco Press)
- Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner (Dostoevsky Wannabe)
- We That Are Young by Preti Taneja (Galley Beggar Press)
Each shortlisted independent press receives £1,500 (US$2,098), which is to be divided with the author. The writer is to get one-third of that, the house two-thirds.
An additional £3,500 (US$4,896) goes to the winner.
A 12-person jury for the competition includes booksellers said to be from Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, and London as well as reviewers and a contributor to the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). The TLS is a sponsor of the award, as are the University of Westminster in London–where the prize is to be awarded to the winner on March 20. The prize program’s organizers say they’ve received a grand from Arts Council England this year, too.
Last year’s winner was Fitzcarraldo Editions for John Keene’s Counternarratives.
The Nominated Presses
Prize organizers have provided the media with short descriptions of shortlisted independent presses.
- Many readers will be familiar with the shortlist’s Galley Beggar Press of Norwich, considered a heroic shop among small presses for publishing Eimear McBride’s A Gril Is a Half-Formed Thing, which would go on to win the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, and the Goldsmiths Prize.
- Charco Press (Edinburgh) focuses on contemporary Latin American literature getting it to English-language readers.
- Dostoevsky Wannabe is based in Manchester and is what some might call a “partner publisher” in that it offers two options for authors, one of which pays them royalties.
- Influx Press in East London publishes stories from “the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream literature.”
- Les Fugitives was founded by editor and translator Cécile Menon in 2015. It specializes in translations of “contemporary, female, francophone writers, telling stories about strangers, about almost-love, and about solidarity today and in the second half of the last century.”
- Little Island Press publishes fiction, poetry and essays from Gloucester. The press won the British Book Design & Production Award in 2017.
The singular name for the prize is explained in its mission statement, posted two years ago by Griffiths:
“The Republic of Consciousness is an expression of the effect of a particular kind of writing. While I’m sure there are examples before Shakespeare, for our purposes the Shakespearean soliloquy might be regarded as the first explicit attempt to deliver us into the consciousness of another person, to take us from being mere witnesses to a character’s behavior to participating in their lived experience.
“It is an act of phenomenological conjuring, which in slightly less technical parlance means the re-creation of a perceived world without any mediating voice. Of course there is a contradiction in this definition: the novel or play is an artefact, a work of fiction, and a long way from direct prehension of phenomena.
“And yet. There are writers whose work suggests that human consciousness beyond their own can be accessed, and through that the categorical unknowableness of others’ lived experience might be revealed. It is writing as a moral act. The Republic of Consciousness is here to support and celebrate this.”