The Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019: Shortlist

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EVENT: On Wednesday 20 March, the Bookshop is proud to host an evening of readings by authors shortlisted for the excellent Republic of Consciousness Prize, which is awarded to the best fiction from publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees. Book tickets here. To whet your appetites, we’ve a tiny taste of each of the shortlisted titles for you below; join us on the night to hear more...

Dedalus by Chris McCabe

(Henningham Family Press)

His wet trousers clung to the back of the chair, slack legs swinging. Seasand and airdew. Those trousers which were not his own. Bracken on his breeks. Along the dawnblue bay he’d walked back from Bloom’s, and mishearing his name the name had stuck : Leonard. Stephen thought sleepily of the silent couple asleep in a doubledream of catpurrs and silences. In the sourbreath of parental love.

Leonard. Good Samaritan, pockets lined with sumac. Greasy nose. Exposed offal. That kindness of the Biblical innkeeper. Sadness frothing from his eyes like overboiled eggwhites. His wife a regular Lilith. Mattress like a compactus on her back. Was it a stage for me to enter into, adulterous? Perhaps he wanted me to watch? Could have saved money in Monto.

Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić, translated by S.D. Curtis & Celia Hawkesworth

(Istros Books)

My name is Isabella, says Isabella, and then she smiles so that he, Artur, can see her full set of teeth. Artur notices at once that she has her own teeth, and therefore doesn’t have dentures, he thinks, running his tongue across his small left dental bridge starting from the back. Isabella smiles, she smiles, he sees that she, Isabella, has her own teeth. How come? Artur wonders. My teeth are nicer than his, thinks Isabella, because they’re real. My hair is nicer too. I’m nicer all over. And so, without many words, they stroll along. Artur and Isabella, next to each other, trying to walk in step, because they don’t know each other and their rhythms, their walking rhythms, are different, but they are trying discreetly to walk together on this deserted New Year’s Eve, when all the festivities have ended, the street festivities. It is four o’clock in the morning. January 1st.

Kitch by Anthony Joseph

(Peepal Tree Press)

When I first see Kitchener is in Arima I see him.

My band used to play a lot in Arima and it had a dancehall upstairs the Portuguese laundry, right by the old racecourse, where they used to have christenings and wedding receptions. Was right there I used to play piano with Bertie Francis band, Castilians. We would play, a lil’ Count Basie, Glen Miller, calypso music. And after we done play we go looking for Chinese restaurant, for cutters, or the souse woman by the market.

Right by the dial there was a tailor shop, an’ sometimes, if you there in the day, you may see Kitch, always dressed well; he very tall, a good looking brown-skin fella, always with the open shirt an’ the neck tie, an’ he singing calypso.

Lucia by Alex Pheby

(Galley Beggar Press)

There are many bedtime stories that are suitable for children, and there are many that are not.

Some stories are not suitable because children find them tedious to hear, and while a certain degree of tedium is desirable, at least inasmuch as there ought to be a lack of exciting incident that might otherwise cause children insomnia through overstimulation, a complete lack of engagement will cause a similar restlessness, and not that easy drifting off into sleep that the reader of stories aimed at children prior to their sleeping requires.

Other stories are not suitable for children because they contain content that the child is not ready to hear – for example that dealing with adult themes, or incidents – or contain content that would cause the child distress, such as tales of horror and the uncanny. Tales in which small mammals receive rough treatment at the hands of an authority figure should be avoided. Lucia associates herself with the animals in these stories, even if she is quite content to eat lamb at dinner.

Murmur by Will Eaves

(CB Editions)

I wonder about the coming together of events and people that have produced my crisis. If I were to find a mathematical or topological analogy, I suppose that it would be ‘tessellation’ – where the contours of one form fit perfectly the contours of another. If I had not finished the paper on morphogenesis when I did, I should not have ventured out in search of a reward. If had not had the upbringing I did have, I should not have thought of sexual relations as a candidate for ‘reward’. The very interesting Mr Escher, whose prints have finally awoken my fellow mathematicians to the possibility of an aesthetics of undecidability, has called this coming together the ‘regular division of the plane’, but it is a little more than that, because it is a division that entails change. The world is not atomistic or random but made of forms that interlock and are always interlocking, like the elderly couple in Ovid who become trees.

Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine

(Stinging Fly Press)

Barry’s morning routine: out of bed, do the creams, get dressed, get a takeaway coffee from the garage, get on the bus. It’s the same people, more or less, on the bus each day. Tinny beat of that guy’s cheap headphones, the woman always doing her make-up. Some, like him, are tagged with the logos of their work. The uniform’s alright. A polo shirt with a sweatshirt for the winter. When he gets off the bus and walks around, he always has at least ten minutes to spare.

Barry has a usual spot for a smoke. He sees his own cigarette butts when he looks down. Looks up and there are empty rails for clothes on the first floor of the building opposite. Beside him the hoardings surrounding a vacant space are covered in weathered, flaking posters. Building on the space was meant to start months ago. They advertise long past club nights, a psychic who visited a hotel on the outskirts of town.

The Republic of Consciousness Prize Shortlist Readings will take place in the Bookshop on Wednesday 20 March. Book tickets here.