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Pip Adam

Pip Adam: a note on Audition

Acorn Prize winning author Pip Adam reflects on her genre-bending novel, Audition, released in July 2023.

Audition is an argument for the abolition of prisons and our present punishment-based justice system. The first time I stepped into a prison I experienced a quiet sense that this approach to crime didn’t work. This small voice has grown over the last twenty-eight years until 2019, when it became a fact shouted at the loudest decibels which needed an outlet. 

In this book, I have tried to imagine a new way of dealing with the harm we do each other. To do this, I needed to escape the power structures that are at play in our contemporary lives. I imagined a growth in physical power of those with the least politically power in order to expose the nature of power captured by our present systems. I was interested in what happens when someone grows too big for the space society allocates them. I kept hearing my grandmother telling me I was getting too big for my boots. This is a first-contact novel – the Utopia I write belongs to someone else. At first this worried me, but I think in the end it helped me face questions of colonisation and brought me to realise fully that if we don’t get Land Back in the hands of its rightful owners the project of prison reform is lost.

The spaceship Audition is based on Saydnaya prison in Syria. I am indebted to Lawrence Abu Hamdan who worked with ‘ear-witnesses’ to use ‘echo profiling’ to build an understanding of the architecture of Saydnaya. Of Saydnaya, Abu Hamden says, ‘The prison is really an echo chamber: one person being tortured is like everyone being tortured, because the sound circulates throughout the space, through air vents and water pipes. You cannot escape it.’ James E.K. Parker’s work on sound’s place in war and torture was revolutionary to my own understanding and this book. I’m very grateful to Liquid Architecture for making so many amazing talks about sound available on their website. 

—Pip Adam

Photo: Rebecca McMillan Photography