Sunday 4 December 2016

Irish author wins prestigious prize after writing an entire novel using just one sentence

Published 10/11/2016 | 08:25

Mike McCormack has scooped the Goldsmiths Prize 2016 for Solar Bones
Mike McCormack has scooped the Goldsmiths Prize 2016 for Solar Bones

An author who wrote an entire book in a single, novel-length sentence has been awarded over €11,000.

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Mike McCormack scooped the Goldsmiths Prize 2016 for Solar Bones, which covers just a few hours in the life of Irish engineer Marcus Conway, briefly returned from the dead on All Souls' Day in 2008.

Published by Tramp Press, the work was chosen from 111 books up for the prize, and is the fourth winner of the competition, founded in 2013.

One of the judges, Professor Blake Morrison, said: "Set over a few hours in a single day, and told in the first-person voice of a middle-aged engineer, Mike McCormack's Solar Bones transcends these seeming limits magnificently.

"Politics, family, art, marriage, health, civic duty and the environment are just a few of the themes it touches on, in a prose that's lyrical yet firmly rooted. Its subject may be an ordinary working life but it is itself an extraordinary work."

Also available as an ebook, it begins almost in poetry format, with: "the bell the bell as hearing the bell as hearing the bell as standing here the bell being heard standing here hearing it ring out through the grey light of this morning, noon or night".

It continues as prose, but without any full stops or full sentences.

The other five shortlisted entries included Transit by Rachel Cusk, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, and Martin John by Anakana Schofield.

McCormack, 51, grew up in County Mayo and is best known for his collections of short stories, including Getting It In The Head (1996) and Forensic Songs (2012).

McCormack thanked Tramp Press for backing him during his "long and difficult adventure" as a writer.

He added: "I didn't think I was going to win. It would have been too much of a fairy tale on top of a fairy tale of getting the book published and it being critically well-received. That was it: I didn't think it was going to go any further but it has."

And McCormack called on more publishers to take risks with experimental authors.

He said: "It's about time the prize-giving community honoured experimental works and time that mainstream publishers started honouring their readership by saying: 'Here are experimental books'.

"Readers are smart. They're up for it. That was what the people at Tramp Press taught me - they're up for it. There are readers out there and they have been proved right."

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