‘A lot of money for one sentence’ – Ducks, Newburyport wins Goldsmith Prize

Pic: Goldsmiths, University of London
Goldsmiths Warden Frances Corner left presenting Lucy Ellmann right with the Goldsmiths prize Pic: Goldsmiths

A 1,000-page novel written as one long sentence won the prestigious Goldsmiths Prize For Fiction last night.

The prize was awarded to American author Lucy Ellmann for her novel Ducks, Newburyport, on Wednesday night in a ceremony held in Foyles bookstore, Charing Cross Road.

Established in 2013, the prize rewards the most groundbreaking works of fiction over the past year.  

Author and critic Erica Wagner, the chair of judges, described the winning novel as: “The book that wouldn’t leave us alone. A book that will endure to stand among the classics of modern literature.”

The book is Ellman’s 8th novel. She said: “First of all, thank you. It’s a lot of money for one sentence. I was planning on just being buried with all these speeches I never got to make.”

The winning author receives £10,000, along with the prestige that comes with the prize. 

Pic: Goldsmiths, University of London
Pic: Goldsmiths College, University of London

Ellmann is the daughter of the American biographer and literary critic Richard Ellmann and the feminist literary critic Mary Ellmann. She is married to the American writer Todd McEwen.

At the ceremony, Ellmann credited her husband for the success of her novel: “He was the first reader, if he hadn’t liked it, I might very well have thrown it out because I was so tired by the end.” The book was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize earlier in 2019.

On Ellmann’s groundbreaking novel, the poet, novelist and lyricist Sjón said: “Ducks, Newburyport is a massive achievement of a novel. Ellman gives us an inspired demonstration of what it’s like to be in the warm vanishing point of a hostile universe.” 

Former winners of the Goldsmiths Prize include Ali Smith and Nicola Barker. The awards, now in its seventh year, will continue to reward fiction that breaks the mould and extends the possibilities of the novel form for many years to come.  

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