“Genre contrarian” M. John Harrison wins Goldsmiths Prize

Winner M. John Harrison. Pic: Hugo Glendinning

M John Harrison was announced as the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize for Fiction today for his novel The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again.

On receiving the award, Harrison said: “The Goldsmiths Prize… keeps it [fiction writing] pushing ahead, they reward the novel for its idiosyncrasies, its ambitions, its attempts to see into its own future, and so I’m really proud to have found myself in the company of such good writers.”

Chair of the judging panel, author Frances Wilson, said: “M. John Harrison has produced a literary masterpiece that will continue to be read in 100 years’ time.”

The winning novel, published in June 2020, is an eerie tale of broken life in Brexit Britain in which a new species emerges, part human but green.

Judge Will Eaves said: “The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again is a brilliant realist fantasy about love in middle-age and the dissolution of the post-war settlement. In a series of startling knights’ moves across our inner and outer landscapes, M. John Harrison quietly overturns all grounds for supposing we know who we are and where we have come from.” 

Harrison’s winning novel. Pic: Goldsmith’s Prize

Introducing a reading of The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again earlier this month, Harrison said it is “a story of lovers so self-involved, they not only fail to make a relationship but also fail to notice a mysterious political takeover going on around them. It’s a novel about a conspiracy theory in which you can’t tell what’s theory and what’s real. It’s set in the UK now and it refers to the UK now. It isn’t science-fiction or folk horror or psycho-geography, but it contains parodic elements of all three, and more.” 

Born in Rugby and now living in Shropshire, Harrison has been writing short fiction, long fiction and literary criticism since 1966. He is best known for his modern fantasy and science fiction but is also described as someone not limited by questions of genre.  

Harrion’s other books include the Viriconium stories, The Centauri Device, Climbers, The Course of the HeartSigns of LifeLight and Nova Swing. He has also won the Boardman Tasker Award, the James Tiptree Jr Award (now known as the Otherwise Award) and the Arthur C.Clarke Award.

This year’s Goldsmiths Prize judging panel comprised former Goldsmiths Prize shortlisted-writer Sarah Ladipo Manyika, short story and newspaper columnist Chris Power, novelist and poet Will Eaves and biographer and critic Frances Wilson.  The winner was announced in an online ceremony on Wednesday evening.

The prize was launched in partnership with the New Statesman in 2013 to celebrate the spirit of daring creativity associated with Goldsmiths University, and to reward fiction that breaks the mould and explores the possibilities of the novel form.

The shortlisted works. Pic: Goldsmith’s Prize

This year’s shortlisted works were: 

  • Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)  
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)  
  • The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)  
  • Meanwhile in Dopamine City by DBC Pierre (Faber)  
  • The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)  
  • Bina by Anakana Schofield (Fleet)

One Response

  1. Руслан November 13, 2020

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