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Mike McCormack says Goldsmiths Prize win is ‘payback’ for his publisher Tramp

Prestigious experimental fiction prize won by Irish author for third time in four years

Mike McCormack with the award for the Goldsmiths Prize 2016. The Irish writer won the annual £10,000 prize for his novel Solar Bones. Photograph: Kevin Moran
Mike McCormack won the Rooney Prize in 1996 for his debut collection of stories, Getting it in the Head

Solar Bones author Mike McCormack has said winning this year’s Goldsmiths Prize last night was “payback” for his publishers Tramp Press and his agent who had backed him during his “long and difficult adventure” as a writer.

He called on more publishers to take risks with experimental authors. Speaking after collecting his £10,000 cheque at an event held at the London bookstore, Foyles on Charing Cross Road, McCormack said: “It’s about time the prize-giving community honoured experimental works and time that mainstream publishers started honouring their readership by saying: ‘Here are experimental books’.

“Readers are smart. They’re up for it. That was what the people at Tramp Press taught me – they’re up for it. There are readers out there and they have been proved right.”

He added: “I didn’t think I was going to win. It would have been too much of a fairy tale on top of a fairy tale of getting the book published and it being critically well-received. That was it: I didn’t think it was going to go any further but it has.”

The award, which recognises fiction at its most novel, marks a major turnaround in the career of the Galway-based writer, who won the Rooney Prize in 1996 for his debut collection of stories, Getting it in the Head. His last work, Notes from a Coma, was published in 2005 and despite critical acclaim he was released by his publisher Jonathan Cape just under a decade ago.

Solar Bones was picked up by Tramp Press, a small independent press in Dublin, which previously had a major success with Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume.

McCormack’s novel, which was last month’s Irish Times Book Club choice, was praised for its remarkable narrative which unfolds in one unbroken sentence and as a formally innovative novel which is also a moving and compelling read. It follows the stream-of-consciousness recollections of a man named Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer from the west of Ireland briefly returned from the dead on All Souls Day, November 2008.

Fourth winner

McCormack is the fourth winner of the prize founded in 2013 by Goldsmiths, University of London and held in partnership with the New Statesman, and the third Irish writer to win after Kevin Barry last year with Beatlebone and Eimear McBride in 2013 with A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. Ali Smith won in 2014 with How To Be Both.

The judging panel was made up of Prof Blake Morrison and writers Erica Wagner, Bernadine Evaristo and Joanna Walsh. Morrison said: “Set over a few hours in a single day, and told in the first-person voice of a middle-aged engineer, Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones transcends these seeming limits magnificently.

“Politics, family, art, marriage, health, civic duty and the environment are just a few of the themes it touches on, in a prose that’s lyrical yet firmly rooted. Its subject may be an ordinary working life but it is itself an extraordinary work.”

Solar Bones was one of three Irish works on a shortlist of six chosen after 111 works were submitted for the prize. The others were The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride and Martin John by Anakana Schofield. Also shortlisted were Transit by Rachel Cusk; Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika; and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.

The Goldsmiths Prize was launched in 2013 with the goal of celebrating the spirit of creative daring associated with the university and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form.