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14 November 2017updated 24 Feb 2021 6:49pm

Goldsmiths Prize shortlist 2017: the New Statesman’s author Q&As

We spoke to the six authors shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, which rewards the most innovative fiction.

By New Statesman


The winner of the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize, run in association with the New Statesman, will be announced on November 15. Here are our Q&As with the six shortlisted authors.

Will Self: The nostalgia of the “heritage novel” leaves me reaching for my gun

“I think the 20th century saw tremendous advances in the novel form; in particular the suite of techniques – stream-of-consciousness, privileging the mimetic over the diegetic, the ‘Uncle Charles’ principle, the incorporation of film-editing techniques, the use of non-locatable allusion – that we characterise as ‘modernism’. There has been a wholesale retreat from these innovations, in my view, into a kind of ‘heritage novel’, if you like, a Downton Abbey…”

Kevin Davey: “TS Eliot was far more than the sum of his prejudices”

“I haven’t been greatly impressed by attempts to appropriate Eliot as gay, or bisexual, or an ecological pioneer or New Age guru. He was a High Church Anglican cultural theorist. Recent developments [in Eliot scholarship] probably gave something to push back against.”

Gwendoline Riley: “Human beings are incorrigible. This is a source of humour and pain”

“A reader – unless they’re a real genre fiend – might find a novel more worthwhile if its language isn’t off the peg, if it doesn’t feel obliged to hit the same old beats, if it’s not ersatz. But who knows, all or any of that might just make said reader hostile!”

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Nicola Barker: “I’m a niche writer and see no harm in it. I like niches”

“I never see my work as having any kind of shelf-life. I write for the moment and that’s it, really. I take my engagement with the work seriously but nothing else. It’s kind of like chewing on a toffee, ferociously, and then swallowing it and thinking, ‘Hmm. What next?’ Over the years I’ve lost all ambition.”

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Sara Baume: “The only right way of writing is to follow your interests with conviction”

“Ray, my 57-year-old man, was a version of me, adapted from certain qualities and tendencies, exaggerated. Frankie is just another version, adapted from other qualities and tendencies, exaggerated.”

Jon McGregor: I wanted to show how we normalise male violence

“I know that when I’m reading one of the first things I look for is a sign that the writer cares about the reader’s experience; and that often this care is demonstrated by an attention to form. ‘Innovation’ should be implicit in the act of writing, or at least in the process of rewriting; the writer should have something they want to share with the reader, in a way that feels fresh or new or special.”

Photos: Chris Close / Eamonn McCabe / Courtesy of the authors

Listen to The Back Half podcast’s special episode on the Goldsmiths Prize nominees, on iTunes here, on Acast here or via the player below: