Geoff Dyer to judge the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize

The prize, inaugurated in 2013 to reward "fiction at its most novel", will officially relaunch on 29 January.

The award-winning novelist and journalist Geoff Dyer will join Kirsty Gunn, Francis Spufford and NS Culture Editor Tom Gatti to judge this year’s Goldsmiths Prize. The £10,000 prize for “fiction at its most novel”, which was inaugurated in 2013 in association with the New Statesman, will officially launch on 29 January when last year's winner Eimear McBride will read from her novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.

Blake Morrison, Professor of Creative and Life Writing, cited Walter Benjamin when he introduced the prize shortlist last October – his dictum that a great work of literature should either “establish a genre or dissolve one”. Dyer, whose work ranges across art criticism, travel writing, fiction and non-fiction (generally within a single volume), has called the Goldsmiths “a much-needed prize rewarding innovation, originality and daring.”

The debut shortlist, drawn in 2013 from over 120 submissions, was remarkable in singling out six books, four of which were published by independent publishers - all of which broke new ground.

“The New Statesman has long been home to daring writing, from Virginia Woolf to Will Self,” said Tom Gatti, who took over as Culture Editor at the magazine in November. “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with the Goldsmiths Prize, a rare opportunity to celebrate audacity and invention in British fiction.”

McBride’s reading will be followed by two further events: Deborah Levy on the art of fiction on 26 February and Kirsty Gunn on 12 March. The closing date for submissions to the prize (details, for all interested parties, can be found here) is 28 March. This year’s shortlist will be announced on 1 October, with the winner being presented with the prize at Goldsmiths on the evening of 12 November.

Francis Spufford, a member of the faculty at Goldsmiths and the author of Red Plenty, The Child that Books Built and, mostly recently, Unapologetic, said “the best boundary is the most elastic one, and the most interesting literary territory is the most contested.”

More information about the Goldsmiths Prize is available here.

Geoff Dyer photographed by Lawrence Impey.

Book talk from the New Statesman culture desk.

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Intelligent life on earth: why we need Radio 4's Book of the Week

When a book on quantum gravity came on air, it sounded like a brief return to something that has declined so much over our lifetimes – knowledge as part of a function of a media flow.

It sounded like the densest of abridgements: five days of excerpts from Reality Is Not What It Seems: the Journey to Quantum Gravity by the Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli (week beginning 28 November, 9.45am). Swarms of quantum events where time does not exist. Cosmology, meteorology and cathedrals of atomism. Leucippus of Miletus and lines of force filling space. Very few of us listening could have understood what was being said. Instead, we just allowed it to wash over, reminding us that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.

Perhaps once or twice, as the week progressed, token attempts were made to check that everybody was keeping up (“So, the number of nanoseconds in a second is the same as the number of seconds in 30 years”) – or to encourage listeners to picture themselves as part of an experiment (“Imagine I’m on Mars, and you were here . . .”). But generally it was utterly airtight, the reader, Mark Meadows, doing a good job of keeping his voice at a pace and tone uncondescendingly brisk, flattering us that nobody was scratching their head (“The speed of light determined by Maxwell’s equations is velocity with respect to what?”).

It was my favourite radio book reading of 2016. Not because I learned a single thing I could repeat, or might realistically mull over, but because it sounded like a brief return to something that has declined so much over our lifetimes – knowledge as part of a function of a media flow.

It’s that old idea that something might be there for your betterment. When we were exposed to just four channels on television especially, and forced to stay on them, we got into astronomy and opera and all sorts of stuff, almost against our will. (Rigoletto? Jesus. Well, there’s nothing else on . . .) The programme was marvellously and unapologetically impenetrable, as the days and chapters piled up relentlessly (“We are immersed in a gigantic flexible snail shell”). What this adaptation comprehended was that we don’t actually want someone explaining Einstein to us. What is much more compelling – more accurate and clever – is simply to show what it’s like in other people’s brains. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump