The 2023 Goldsmiths Prize for fiction, run in association with the New Statesman, has been won by Benjamin Myers’s Cuddy, a novel about St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne that spans the 7th and 21st centuries, and incorporates verse, playscript and prose.
At a ceremony on 8 November at the Social in central London, Myers was awarded the £10,000 prize for fiction that “breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”. The New Statesman’s assistant culture editor Ellen Peirson-Hagger – who judged the prize alongside authors Helen Oyeyemi and Maddie Mortimer, and the lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, Tom Lee – praised Myers for writing a “truly modern” book that “upends our preconceptions of what the ‘historical novel’ might be”. Tom Lee called Cuddy “a millennia-spanning epic told in a multitude of perfectly realised voices” and “a book of remarkable range, virtuosity and creative daring”.
Earlier this month Benjamin Myers told the New Statesman’s Matthew Gilley that in writing the novel he “wanted to depict the everyday struggles of people living in the same location but across different eras, and remind readers that their concerns and desires are not so different from ours today”. Myers, who was born in Durham and lives in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, explained that working on Cuddy helped him appreciate “a certain spirit of the north-east that endures today, and which comes from being colonised, invaded, patronised or overlooked – just consider the complete failure of the Northern Powerhouse project”. (Cuddy was one of several works on this year’s Goldsmiths shortlist – which featured novels by Amy Arnold, Kate Briggs, H Gareth Gavin, Richard Milward and Adam Thirlwell – that had a northern connection.)
Myers is the author of ten books, including the bestseller The Offing and The Gallows Pole, which won the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction and was adapted as a BBC series by Shane Meadows this year. In 2015 he spoke of being “turned down by every major publisher in London”: his first books were published by the small, West Yorkshire-based independent press Bluemoose Books, before Bloomsbury took him on in 2018. A former music journalist, Myers has also published non-fiction and poetry, and his writing has appeared in publications including the New Statesman.
Last year the Goldsmiths Prize, which was co-founded by the New Statesman, celebrated its tenth anniversary, hosting events featuring Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ali Smith and others at the Southbank Centre, Cambridge Literary Festival and Goldsmiths University. In 2022 the prize – which is open to British and Irish authors – was won by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams for their co-authored novel Diego Garcia.