April 1, 2020

Republic Of Consciousness Prize awarded, divided


It’s been a strange and complicated . . . many years. . . for literary prizes and their aftermath.

And it’s not exactly a spicy take to speculate that a world-historical pandemic won’t simplify matters.

But this is not a story of doom and gloom, loss and permanent change. This is the story of a unique ruling on a prize for the best possible cause: The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (defined by having fewer than 5 full time employees).

It has been announced that this year’s prize shall go to Fitzcarraldo Editions for the novel Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo and translated by Frank Wynne. Bravo!

The corona-era caveat, however, will be that this year’s £10,000 purse will be divided among the small press short listers—a roll call of great names: the87press, And Other Stories, Galley Beggar Press and Dostoevsky Wannabe.

As Alison Flood reports for the Guardian:

“We’re sharing the prize money out equally between five small presses, but this year it was felt there could only be one winner,” said founder Neil Griffiths. “There is much to say about Animalia, but given the current global situation, it is timely indeed to have a book that is preoccupied with our bodies as physical organisms. Covid-19 doesn’t care about our minds, our rationality, our creativity. It has no interest in us as human beings: it is a virus that is transmitted from one animal to another. If the coronavirus levels us because we’re all susceptible, Animalia reminds us why.”

Damn, OK, that probably ranks among the all-time darkest prize commendations. But the reaction—lending support to a number of small publishers who badly need it—seems the only one worthy of this moment in time.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.