November 13, 2015
Kevin Barry wins the Goldsmiths Prize as it awaits its first English winner
by Zeljka Marosevic
The Irish author Kevin Barry has won the 2015 Goldsmiths Prize for his novel Beatlebone.
Barry was awarded the prize on Wednesday evening, and is the third recipient of the annual honor. His novel Beatlebone is based on the true story of The Beatles’ John Lennon buying an island off the coast of Ireland in 1967. The novel imagines a scenario in which Lennon attempts to reach the island to enjoy three days of peace, but things quickly become chaotic and surreal.
Receiving the prize, Barry remarked:
“It’s a really cool prize, because it rewards innovation. And if the novel lacks innovation it’s fucked.” His acceptance speech chimes well with the aims of the prize, which was established in 2013 to reward work “that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form.”
In previous years, the prize was won by Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and Ali Smith’s How to be Both, and in the prize’s inaugural year 2013, two Melville House authors were shortlisted, both Lars Iyer’s Exodus and David Peace’s Red or Dead.
Reflecting on the prize, Tom Gatti, the literary editor of the New Statesman, which sponsors the prize, tweeted:
Eimear McBride: Irish. Ali Smith: Scottish. Kevin Barry: Irish. The @GoldsmithsPrize awaits its first English winner…
— Tom Gatti (@Tom_Gatti) November 11, 2015
It’s a good question. Ireland is currently enjoying a renaissance in contemporary fiction, but who will carry the mantle for experimental English fiction? Obviously, we have one or two suggestions but thus far the space remains empty.
The prize will also be hoping to rectify another issue next year. In 2015, the judges delivered an all-male shortlist. Eimear McBride, a previous winner and one of this year’s judges, told The Guardian, “Given the prize’s previously unblemished record, hopefully this year will prove a blip.”
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.