Irish author Mike McCormack wins €11.5k for one-sentence book Solar Bones

An Irish author who wrote an entire book in a single, novel-length sentence has praised his publisher for being willing to take a risk after it scooped a £10,000 (€11,480) prize.

Mayo-born Mike McCormack won the Goldsmiths Prize 2016 for Solar Bones, which covers just a few hours in the life of Irish engineer Marcus Conway, briefly returned from the dead on All Souls’ Day in 2008.

Mr McCormack thanked Tramp Press for backing him during his “long and difficult adventure” as a writer.

“I didn’t think I was going to win. It would have been too much of a fairytale on top of a fairytale 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.”

And Mr McCormack called on more publishers to take risks with experimental authors. “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.”

Mr McCormack, 51, grew up in Co Mayo and is best known for his collections of short stories, including Getting It In The Head (1996) and Forensic Songs (2012).

Solar Bones was chosen from 111 books and is the fourth winner of the competition, founded in 2013. Last year’s winner was Irish writer Kevin Barry.

One of the judges, Prof Blake 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.”

Extract from ‘Solar Bones’

The book begins: “The bell the bell as hearing the bell as hearing the bell as standing here the bell being heard standing here hearing it ring out through the grey light of this morning, noon or night...”

The bell is the Angelus bell, ringing out in rural Ireland – in Louisburgh, near Westport, Co Mayo, “a county with a unique history of people starving and mortifying themselves for higher causes and principles [...] blistered with shrines and grottoes and prayer-houses and hermitages [...] a bordered realm of penance and atonement...”.

It continues as prose, but without any full stops or full sentences.


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