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Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2021 longlist announced

The Republic of Consciousness prize has revealed its 2021 longlist, including four small presses appearing on the longlist for the first time. The list features ten books from ten small presses across the U.K. and Ireland. For the first time, all books on the longlist will receive funding from the prize, with each publisher receiving £1,000. A further £10,000 will be split between the shortlisted books, which will be announced in late March, before the winner is named in May. UniReadingLists will be contributing a portion of all sales of our special discounted mix-and-match bundle of the longlist books towards the prize fund.

The four publishers appearing for the first time on a Republic of Consciousness longlist are Ignota Books, Jacaranda Books, Peninsula Press and Scotland Street Press. Two presses on the list have won the prize before, Fitzcarraldo Editions and Galley Beggar Press. Only one author has been previously listed: Alex Pheby for his epic novel Mordew (Galley Beggar Press), who won the prize in 2019 for Lucia, also published by Galley Beggar.

Many congratulations to all the publishers, authors and translators on the longlist.

The full longlist is below, ordered alphabetically by publisher:

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti, tr. Fionn Petch (Charco Press)
The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Mordew by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press)
Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)
Unknown Language by Huw Lemmey and Hildegard von Bingen (Ignota Books)
Lote by Shola von Reinhold (Jacaranda Books)
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)
Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman (Peninsula Press)
Alindarka’s Children by Alhierd Bacharevic, tr. Jim Dingley & Petra Reid (Scotland Street Press)
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press)

You can buy the longlist at a special discounted price here, and a proportion of all sales will go to the Republic of Consciousness prize fund.

The 2021 judging panel consists of Eley Williams, Guy Gunaratne and John Mitchinson. The judging process is 2021 is being studied and supported by students from the MA in Publishing at the University of East Anglia.

Judge John Mitchinson had the following to say about this year’s longlist, and his experience judging the prize:


“I’ve always considered myself pretty well-informed about the independent publishing scene in the UK and Ireland: after all, I’ve worked in the industry in some capacity or other for 33 years, including the last decade as an independent publisher. Judging the Republic of Consciousness Prize has shown me just how superficial my knowledge was. In the eight months of reading, I’ve got through 54 books, from at least as many independent publishers (before I started, I might have been able to name half that number). The quality of the works published has been astonishingly high – as I think the longlist shows – but also the care and skill demonstrated by the books themselves in terms of design, typography, paper quality and binding. It feels very good to be bringing this vibrant subculture to a broader audience. I’d also like to thank my fellow judges, Eley Williams and Guy Gunaratne. It’s a rare pleasure discussing books with such careful and exacting readers: they sent me back to several of the books we discussed with a clearer mind and a deeper understanding. The final list of books is something we all feel very proud to endorse. Should anyone ask about the health of the independent sector in this most difficult of years, that pile of ten very different books offers a complete and definitive answer.”


About the prize
The Republic of Consciousness Prize was founded in 2017 by the novelist Neil Griffiths. Since then it has awarded nearly £50,000 to small presses and their authors. The prize rewards outstanding literary fiction published by small presses based in the UK and Ireland with no more than 5 full-time employees. The prize is open to both novels and single-author short story collections in English, either originally or in translation, as long as it is the first time it has been published in the UK and Ireland.

The majority of the prize fund comes from two sources: the Prize’s partners and sponsors at the University of East Anglia, through the UEA Publishing Project, and new in 2021, an award from The Granta Trust. The rest of the prize money is raised via donations and through an RoC small press book club. The prize also receives the support of Arts Council England.

Previous winners:
2017: Fitzcarraldo Editions for Counternarratives by John Keene
2018: Influx Press for Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams
2019: CB Editions for Murmur by Will Eaves/Galley Beggar Press for Lucia by Alex Pheby
2020: Fitzcarraldo Editions for Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, tr. Frank Wynne

THE 2021 LONGLIST IN SHORT

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti, tr. Fionn Petch (Charco Press)

This rich and complex book is the second by the Argentinian writer Luis Sagasti to have been published in translation by Charco Press. Like the first, Fireflies, it is unclassifiable in the best possible way, braiding together memoir, history, science, fable, musical criticism, and anthropology in a way that summons the ghosts of both Sebald and Borges but with a poise and originality that is all Sagasti’s own.

The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Subtitled ‘The Story of the Cock’, this is a bravura monologue delivered by a young German woman undergoing an intimate examination in the office of Dr Seligman in London. A savagely funny and audacious novel (think Thomas Bernhard re-written by Patricia Lockwood) in which the kamikaze honesty and the humour eventually build towards something profound and moving.

Mordew by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press)

Mordew reveals a sprawling, mordant vision of a world built on the corpse of God. The novel’s worldbuilding is intricate and superbly rendered – not for nothing has its ambition and rich flair drawn comparison with the work of Mervyn Peake. Pheby’s grim and provocative epic is packed with imagery that startles, sticks, and sinks its teeth into you.

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)

A bold conceit written with energy and intellect, Mr. Beethoven considers an icon’s life, and the ways in, which judgement, performance and genius might be played out if fate – or some other engine – had different designs. Griffiths’ novel troubles the notions of historical fact and historical fictions, and is a book about faith as much as power, and about silence as much as music.

Unknown Language by Huw Lemmey and Hildegard von Bingen (Ignota Books)

Unknown Language is a highly textured and intense work of collaboration and vitality. While in part a meditation upon the work of twelfth-century mystic Hildegaard von Bingen, it is also a bold retreatment of her visions through poetic fragment, narrative and hybrid writing. It is difficult to describe, and quite right too – a revelation on revelation.

Lote by Shola von Reinhold (Jacaranda Books)

Shola von Reinhold’s rapturous queer attempt to reaffirm pleasure as the heart of the novel is rich with intrigue and suspense, and possessed of a superbly arch narrative voice. It is also an indictment and a powerful decolonial response to historical and contemporary attempts to curate art and art history within the calcified mould of European conservatism.

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)

In 1976, off the tiny Carribean island of Black Conch, two American big game fisherman haul a mermaid from the ocean, her huge tail, thick and pulsing, encrusted with shells and seaweed, beautiful but terrifying. The story that unfolds is an exhilarating high-wire act, a masterclass in how ancient myth can be dramatically repurposed.

Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman (Peninsula Press)

A wry, searching commentary on our contemporary world scattered across a 38-year-old’s exposition of his own masculinity. Through a series of short essay-like episodes, Tillman turns Zeke’s philosophical musings into genuinely fascinating and funny extended studies on feminism, family history, American pop culture, personal betrayal and heartbreak.

Alindarka’s Children by Alhierd Bacharevic, tr. Jim Dingley & Petra Reid (Scotland
Street Press)

This work of sublime storytelling follows two children, Alicia and Avi, as they attempt to escape an internment camp. A remarkable, boundless tale is reflected in a captivating translation from the Russian into English Received Pronunciation and Belarusian into Scots by Petra Reid and Jim Dingley. An unique, powerfully original work that demands to be read to be believed.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press)

The twin tale of a young 21st century mother and an 18th century Irish noblewoman, Eibhlínn Dubh Ní Chonnaill, who mourned the murder of her husband by drinking his blood and composing the Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, one of the greatest poems in the Irish language, A Ghost in the Throat moves between past and present with hallucinogenic intensity as the narrator uncovers the details of the dead poet’s life, each revelation deepening her own sense of herself as a writer and a woman.

You can buy titles from the longlist at a special discounted price here. A proportion of all sales will go to the Republic of Consciousness Prize.