The UK’s Republic of Consciousness Announces Its 2019 Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

With ‘wonderfully argumentative’ attitude, the Republic of Consciousness names its longlist. And gripes that it can only place 13 titles on the roster this year.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Books in Five Languages

In its third year, the awards program in the UK called Republic of Consciousness—which awards the work of small publishers—has produced a 13-title longlist for 2019. It also says that it’s “wrong” to be held to that number.

Its shortlist is to be revealed on March 2 at the University of East Anglia, with a winner’s announcement set for March 28.

The 2019 Republic of Consciousness Longlist
  • The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici (Carcanet)
  • Murmur by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
  • Resistance by Julián Fuks, tr. Daniel Hahn (Charco Press)
  • Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn (Fairlight Books)
  • Lucia by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Dedalus by Chris McCabe (Henningham Family Press)
  • Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić, tr. Celia Hawkesworth & S. D. Curtis (Istros)
  • Now, Now, Louison by Jean Frémon, tr. Cole Swensen (Les Fugitives)
  • Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford (New Island Books)
  • Kitch by Anthony Joseph (Peepal Tree Press)
  • Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena, tr. Margita Gailitis (Peirene Press)
  • Hang Him When He’s Not There by Nicholas John Turner (Splice)
  • Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine (Stinging Fly)

As the program’s messaging notes, there are several distinguishing features about this unusual award, which splits its prize money between author and publisher.

  • The long list includes short story collections and novels
  • There are longlisted novels in English, Portuguese, Croatian, French, and Latvian
  • Publishers are included, not just from the major hubs of London and Dublin but from eight towns and cities in the UK and Ireland, including Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Norwich, Dublin, Leeds, Birmingham
  • Two relatively well-known names are on the list, Gabriel Josipovici and the late Daša Drndić
  • Four debuts are on the longlist from Sophie van Llewyn, Sue Rainsford, Nicholas John Turner, and Wendy Erskine
  • Two small presses longlisted are very new, having entered the market just last year
‘Wonderfully Argumentative’

The program is newly sponsored this year by the University of East Anglia and The Times Literary Supplement, with support from Arts Council England.

The effort was created by author Neil Griffiths in 2016 to honor “brave and bold literary fiction” produced by independent houses from the UK and Ireland, and in addition to splitting prize money between writers and their publishers, it also works to be publisher-friendly by “charging no entry fees, paying for travel to prize events and splitting our prize money (currently unspecified but likely to be slightly more than last year’s £12,500) between author and publisher.”

All this is presented in an announcement article at the co-sponsoring Times Literary Supplement, in which you can detect some of the rancor that sometimes lies below the surface of the crowded British literary awards year.

The first line of what might have been a joyous longlist announcement criticizes the British Book Awards program, for example, for adding a small press category to its program and defining “small press” as one doing less than £1 million in annual revenue.

“By contrast,” write the Conscious ones, “we at the Republic of Consciousness go for fewer than five full-time employees, and aim for the less number-based criteria of ‘hard-core literary fiction and gorgeous prose.'”

And as goes this tradition of sharp elbows among the prize givers, the announcement also takes on the mighty Man Booker Prize for Fiction, which has a very different mandate, of course, from that of the Republic: “This year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction didn’t longlist a single small press. Can it be that no small press published a novel good enough to make their top 13?”

With fists thus duly shaken at the mountain, the program goes on to  explain that it doesn’t even like itself very much, at least in terms of having 13 titles on its longlist.

“Below you will find our top 13. I wish it were 15, even 18, because then we would have included all the outstanding entries. And yet there is a cut-off point. It’s wrong. It doesn’t make sense. But then neither does a shortlist of six, or an overall winner. In the past two years, the overall winner has been decided unanimously, which makes it easier. That won’t be the case this year.”

We’re not told who is this Republican writing in such first-person pique. The announcement article is credited only to the Republic of Consciousness. Nor are we given to understand how the 13-title cap has been imposed on the situation, but it seems likely that the arrival of the University of East Anglia as a sponsor announced in the late summer may have come with some modest restraints that the program now pronounces “wrong.”

At the time the jurors were announced for this year’s longlist, the program noted a hope that the jury would be “wonderfully argumentative”—following the lead, it might seem, of its apparently angry organizers.

Those jurors assigned to argue over the longlist were:

  • Catherine Taylor, a journalist who is a founder and member of the Rathbones-Folio Prize Academy
  • David Collard, an author and freelancer
  • Niven Govinden, an author of four novels to date, most recently All The Days And Nights (The Friday Project) which was longlisted for the Folio Prize

A single vote was also be contributed by the UAE Publishing Project MA creative writing students. No word yet on the level of bickering achieved by the students.

More from Publishing Perspectives on awards programs is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.