Karl Ove Knausgård to launch tenth anniversary celebration of Goldsmiths Prize

Karl Ove Knausgård will launch the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Goldsmiths Prize this autumn with an event at the Southbank Centre. The acclaimed Norwegian author, best known for his My Struggle series, will deliver the annual New Statesman/Goldsmiths Prize lecture on “why the novel matters” at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 22 October as part of the centre’s London Literature Festival.

The Goldsmiths Prize, which runs in partnership with the New Statesman, awards “fiction at its most novel”, celebrating literature that “breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”. Winners of the prize during its first decade include Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-Formed ThingAli Smith for How to Be Both, and Isabel Waidner for Sterling Karat Gold. The New Statesman/Goldsmiths Prize lecture was first delivered in 2016 by Howard Jacobson; subsequent lecturers included Elif Shafak and Bernardine Evaristo, who argued against the continuing dominance of the white male canon.

Also kicking off the prize’s tenth anniversary celebrations at the Southbank Centre on 22 October are Ali Smith and previous Goldsmiths-shortlisted novelists Natasha Brown and Guy Gunaratne. They will discuss their fantasy Goldsmiths Prize winner – a favourite innovative novel published before the award was founded. Both events will also be livestreamed. Other speakers at the London Literature Festival include Greta Thunberg, Malorie Blackman and George Saunders.

Since its foundation in 2013 the Goldsmiths Prize has “changed the conversation about what used to be considered really different, experimental books”, Tim Parnell, the prize’s founder and a senior lecturer in English at Goldsmiths, University of London, told the New Statesman. “It’s persuaded people to take seriously books that they weren’t open to before. The niche is no longer a niche. It’s not mainstream, but there’s a shift in willingness to read more experimental fiction, and certainly in [the] willingness of publishers to look at writers who they might not have looked at before.”

Ali Smith has credited the prize with changing the publishing landscape. “The change it’s made is that publishers, who never take risks in anything, are taking risks on works which are much more experimental than they would’ve two years ago,” she told the Bookseller in 2015. “That to me is like a miracle.”

Parnell pointed to the prize’s more subtle but still significant effects: after McBride won the first Goldsmiths Prize in 2013 with A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, then published by the small independent press Galley Beggar, it was picked up by Faber & Faber. M John Harrison, who won in 2020 with The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, has been selected as a judge for this year’s Booker Prize. In recent years the Booker has itself looked to champion more experimental novels, awarding the prize to The Sellout by Paul Beatty in 2016 and Milkman by Anna Burns in 2018.

The tenth Goldsmiths Prize, which is now closed for submissions, will be judged by Parnell, Smith, Brown and the New Statesman’s Tom Gatti. The six shortlisted books will be announced on 5 October, with the winner to be declared on 9 November. The first public event with the winner of the 2022 prize will take place at the Cambridge Literary Festival on 20 November.

“Karl Ove Knausgård: Why The Novel Matters” and “Fiction at Its Most Novel” are part of the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival on 22 October. The events will also be available as livestreams. Tickets are available at Southbankcentre.co.uk.

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