Former Tower Hamlets-based author Nicola Barker has won this year’s Goldsmiths Prize with her eleventh novel, an illustrated manuscript, described as a ‘structural marvel’ by judges.
H(a)ppy, is a dystopian novel which is broken up by colourful words, spaces and diagrams throughout the book. Symbols are carved into the book, as Barker tells a story of a supposedly perfect world without doubt, greed or hatred.
Two of Barker’s previous works have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Naomi Wood, Judge and lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London which sponsors the prize alongside the New Statesman magazine, said: “H(a)ppy is a fabulous demonstration of what the Goldsmiths Prize champions: innovation of form that only ever enriches the story. In Barker’s 3D-sculpture of a novel, H(a)ppy makes the case for the novel as a physical form and an object of art.”
Barker is the first English author to win the prize, which is open to authors from the UK and Republic of Ireland. Her novel Darkmans won the 2008 Hawthornden Prize.
The winner was announced on Wednesday at a ceremony at Foyles in central London, and the prize included a £10,000 cash prize.
Talking at the ceremony, Barker said: “Once I’ve finished writing a book I never think about it again. I suppose it’s a book about faith, it’s a book about suffering, confusion, it’s a modern book but… quite crazy – I can’t make any excuses for it. It’s written in colour.”
The prize was launched with the New Statesman in 2013.Tom Gatti, Culture Editor of the New Statesman, said: “Nicola Barker is a writer who has broken the mould so many times that it’s almost beyond repair – and her novel H(a)ppy is an embodiment of the defiant and inventive spirit that the Goldsmiths Prize seeks to celebrate.”
Previous winners of the prize include Eimear McBride in 2013, Ali Smith in 2014, and Mike McCormack, last year, for his single sentence novel, Solar Bones.
Barker was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire in 1966; she lived in Wapping for some years but now lives in Hastings.