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26 September 2018

Rachel Cusk makes Goldsmiths Prize shortlist for the third time

The prize for “fiction at its most novel” has nominated Cusk for the third time in four years, for the final volume in her acclaimed Outline trilogy.

By Tom Gatti

Rachel Cusk appears on the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize shortlist with her novel Kudos, having been shortlisted in 2014 for Outline and in 2016 for Transit. The prize, run in association with the New Statesman, celebrates “fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form” and has been won in the past by Eimear McBride and Ali Smith. Cusk’s trilogy has been described by Monica Ali in the New York Times as “nothing less than the reinvention of the [novel] form itself” and the Goldsmiths judge Deborah Levy praised Kudos for its “perfect synthesis of form and content”. The three novels have been shortlisted for several prizes but have not yet had any wins (in fact, Cusk has not won any major awards since the 1990s).

Alongside the Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, Cusk has inspired a new wave of “autofiction” – a term that has been applied to Olivia Laing’s Crudo, which joins Kudos on the shortlist, alongside a verse novel (Robin Robertson’s The Long Take) and Will Eaves’ Murmur, a formally adventurous book based on the life of the mathematician Alan Turing (a section of the novel was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2017). Books by a debut author (Guy Gunaratne) and a veteran novelist (Gabriel Josipovici) complete the list. Here it is in full:

•              Kudos by Rachel Cusk (Faber & Faber)
•              Murmur by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
•              In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne (Tinder Press)
•              The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici (Carcanet)
•              Crudo by Olivia Laing (Picador)
•              The Long Take by Robin Robertson (Picador)

The shortlist was announced at Goldsmiths University on the evening of 26 September, after the third annual New Statesman/Goldsmiths Prize Lecture. The talk on “why the novel matters” was given by the Turkish novelist and activisit Elif Shafak, a judge on this year’s prize. (Previous lectures were given by Howard Jacobson and Ali Smith.) The judging panel for the 2018 prize is chaired by Adam Mars-Jones – novelist, critic and Research Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths – and includes the novelists Deborah Levy and the critic and New Statesman columnist Nicholas Lezard as well as Elif Shafak.

This year the Man Booker Prize has, with Daisy Johnson, shortlisted its youngest ever author. But the 2018 Goldsmiths shortlist looks to more experienced writers: Gabriel Josipovici is 77 and Robin Robertson 63. (Guy Gunaratne, aged 34, is the youngest on the list.) It also celebrates small presses. Carcanet Press –  a Manchester-based imprint founded by the poet Michael Schmidt in 1969 and named the Sunday Times Millennium Small Publisher of the Year in 2000 – focuses on poetry but is represented on the list by Gabriel Josipovici’s slim novel The Cemetery in Barnes. CB Editions, publisher of Will Eaves’ Murmur, is a one-man operation run by Charles Boyle, who in 2017 announced he was going into “semi-retirement”.

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The Goldsmiths and Man Booker shortlists share one book this year: The Long Take,  the first verse novel to be shortlisted for the Goldsmiths. The last verse novel to win a major UK fiction prize was Ros Barber’s The Marlowe Papers, which won the Desmond Elliot Prize in 2013.

Adam Mars-Jones said: “The shortlist for this year’s Goldsmiths Prize, now in its sixth year, offers a tasting menu of all that is fresh and inventive in contemporary British and Irish fiction. There’s poetic language here, not all of it in the verse novel we’ve selected, Robin Robertson’s The Long Take. There’s the language of the streets, fighting to be heard, in Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City and the language of an overmediated world in Olivia Laing’s Twitter-fed Crudo. There’s a harsh view of the past in Will Eaves’ Murmur, restaging the travails of a brilliant gay mathematician modelled on Alan Turing, and a cool survey of the unbalanced present in Rachel Cusk’s hypnotic Kudos, while the deceptively quiet unspooling of Gabriel Josipovici’s The Cemetery in Barnes shows the powerful effects that can be achieved without ever raising your voice.”

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Since the Man Booker changed its rules in 2014 to include any writer writing in English and published in the UK, the Goldsmiths has become the only major prize devoted to examining and celebrating the state of the novel in Britain and Ireland. The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at a ceremony at Goldsmiths on 14 November and will appear at Cambridge Literary Festival, in association with the NS, on 25 November. Elif Shafak’s lecture will be printed in the 5 October edition of the New Statesman.