PRIZE WINNER Mike McCormack, author of ‘Solar Bones’.
Louisburgh author Mike McCormack has been named this year’s winner of the £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize for his groundbreaking work Solar Bones. The award, which recognises fiction writing ‘that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form’, was announced at a ceremony in London last night (Wednesday).
Published by independent Irish publisher Tramp Press, Solar Bones focuses on the life of its narrator Marcus Conway, a county engineer living in Louisburgh. That focus is retrospective, as Marcus is dead: He has returned to his kitchen as church bells clang for All Saints Day in 2008. Family bonds are explored against a background of economic collapse, illness, career ennui and the vagaries of local politics. A subtle metanarrative gently probes higher existential, epistemological and theological questions.
Throughout, McCormack not only plays with perspectives of time and reality, but also with the written word. Full stops are conspicuous by their absence – the rhythm of the words and sentences forming its own punctuation. The result is a compelling, often funny and frequently haunting read, and a central character that is somehow more real than many of the living.
McCormack, who lives in Galway, is the fourth winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and the third Irish author to win. Kevin Barry took the honour in 2015 for Beatlebone, while Castlebar writer Eimear McBride did so in 2013 for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. Ali Smith won in 2014 for How To Be Both. This year is the first time a title from an Irish publisher has won the award.
Mike McCormack’s debut collection of short stories, Getting it in the Head (1996) won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and one of its stories was adapted into an award-winning short film by Johnny O’Reilly. His second novel, Notes from a Coma (2005) was described by The Irish Times as ‘the greatest Irish novel of the decade’, and was shortlisted for the Irish Book of the Year Award. His second short story collection, Forensic Songs, appeared in 2012. Solar Bones is McCormack’s third novel.