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The Novel Prize

Announcing the 2022 Novel Prize shortlist

Giramondo Publishing, Fitzcarraldo Editions and New Directions are pleased to announce the shortlist for The Novel Prize, the biennial award for a book-length work of literary fiction written in English by published and unpublished writers around the world.

The shortlist of eight books, selected from almost 700 entries worldwide, is as follows:

Tell by Jonathan Buckley
Forever Valley by Darcie Dennigan
Aurora Australis by Marie Doezema
Palimpsest by Florina Enache
The Passenger Seat by Vijay Khurana
It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over by Anne de Marcken
Moon Over Bucharest by Valer Popa
Anonymity Is Life by Sola Saar

Tell by Jonathan Buckley
A novel in two parts, Jonathan Buckley’s Tell forms a complex examination of biography as an art form, and the slipperiness of representation. The first part is presented as a series of interview transcripts with a woman who worked as a gardener for a wealthy businessman and art collector, who has disappeared, and may or may not have committed suicide. One of the principal characters in this monologue is a journalist whose first (unpublished) book was a fictionalised biography of a Viennese woman whom she befriended in the last years of this woman’s very long life, and whose work is in the businessman’s collection. The second part is a monologue consisting of a sequence of short texts written by this woman, who is extrapolating her story from a collection of photographs that date back to the interwar years. This reconstituted life differs in certain crucial respects from the biography created by the journalist, raising questions about the difficulty, or impossibility, of accurately capturing a life through writing. Jonathan Buckley is a writer, editor and teacher from the West Midlands, now living in Brighton. Since 2003 he has been a Fellow and an Advisory Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. In 2015 he won the BBC National Short Story Award for ‘Briar Road’. He regularly contributes to publications including the Times Literary Supplement. Tell is his twelfth novel.

Forever Valley by Darcie Dennigan
Darcie Dennigan’s Forever Valley is narrated by an unnamed orphan left by a grave as a child and taken in by the cemetery’s groundskeeper. One summer, between childhood and adulthood, she becomes possessed by the sometimes hideously erotic tendrils of flowers she is tending and is sent away to live with a pair of sisters who are the town’s tombstone carvers. This ambitious and imaginative novel is part revenge fantasy, part ghost story, and part bildungsroman. Darcie Dennigan is a poet and writer who lives in Providence, Rhode Island where she directs the Spatulate Church Emergency Shift, a poets theatre collective.

Aurora Australis by Marie Doezema
Ghislaine is a French-American scientist working at a remote base in Antarctica. During her nine months on base, she struggles with the daily challenges of living in a perpetually dark and sub-freezing environment, but her real conflict comes in the form of memories and dreams. She reflects on the early loss of her mother, the loneliness of growing up as an orphan on a farm in Normandy, and her eventual move to the United States for school and work. After an initially promising career at a prominent East Coast university is thwarted by the predatory behaviour of her boss, she moves to a remote birding station in South America, where for the first time she opens her heart to someone else. Now, in the quietude of Antarctica, through her studies of endangered birds and the nurturing of a secret of her own, Ghislaine reckons with the trauma and beauty of her life. Aurora Australis is a deeply moving meditation on mothering, loss and climate change, streaked with joy like the lights of its namesake. Marie Doezema lives in Paris. Her journalism has appeared in publications including the New Yorker, The Atlantic, and the New York Times. She currently works at Columbia University’s Global Center in Paris. Aurora Australis is her first novel.

Palimpsest by Florina Enache
Florina Enache’s Palimpsest, a novel set in a country oppressed by a totalitarian regime, depicts the days leading up to the mass celebration of the National Day, in which citizens are ordered to the capital city to take part in the great spectacle. Told in three female voices, the novel plays witness to fear, uncertainty and brutality, but also to generosity and friendship. Florina Enache’s debut collection of stories An-Tan-Tiri Mogodan was shortlisted in the 2020 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for new writing. She was born and raised in Romania, where she studied English language and literature and worked as a translator, and in 2005 she emigrated to Australia.

The Passenger Seat by Vijay Khurana
Set in an unnamed part of North America, The Passenger Seat charts two relationships – the first between two young men, Teddy and Alvin, who embark on a road trip and whose increasingly unsettling power dynamic leads to tragedy, and the second between two older men, Ron and Freeman, whose connection to the younger men unravels in a moving exploration of mutual responsibility. The two narratives diverge and reconnect, setting the stage for a poignant examination of male friendship, homosocial desire, and the trappings and broader social implications of masculinity. Vijay Khurana is a writer and translator based in Berlin. His short fiction has been published in NOON, the Guardian and 3:AM, and shortlisted for prizes including the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize, the Cúirt New Writing Prize and the Bristol Short Story Prize. Khurana’s story ‘The Menaced Assassin’ won the 2021 Griffith Review Emerging Voices Competition. His children’s chapter book, Regal Beagle, was published in 2014. The Passenger Seat is his first novel.

Moon Over Bucharest by Valer Popa
Valer Popa’s Moon Over Bucharest charts Romania’s volatile history through the latter half of the twentieth century. Twenty-four years after the fall of Ceaușescu’s dictatorship, a feckless young accountant in Bucharest becomes fascinated by Mrs Irina Enescu, a reclusive upstairs neighbour. As the accountant’s life begins to disintegrate, he retreats into his imagination, envisioning her life through the Second World War, shaped by the country’s political troubles. Valer Popa was born in Bucharest, Romania. A graduate of Cornell University’s MFA program in fiction, he now teaches creative writing and lives in Chicago with his family.

It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over by Anne de Marcken
Anne de Marcken’s It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over is a spare, funny, haunting, and luminous novel that asks how much of your memory, of your body, of the world as you know it – how much of what you love can you lose before you are lost? And then what happens? The protagonist is adrift in a familiar future: she has forgotten her name and much of what connects her to her humanity. But she remembers the place where she knew herself and was known, and she is determined to get back there at any cost. She travels across the landscapes of time, encountering and losing parts of her body and her self in one terrifying, hilarious, heartbreaking situation after another. Anne de Marcken is a queer interdisciplinary artist and writer living on unceded land of the Coast Salish people in Olympia, Washington.

Anonymity Is Life by Sola Saar
Sola Saar’s Anonymity Is Life is a dark comedy about an eccentric family. It follows Vera, a sardonic young writer and her sister Katrina, a neurologically atypical budding philosopher. As Vera navigates young adulthood, depression, and a bad economy, the novel explores the concept of drawing from one’s own life experiences and simultaneously attempting to write from a place of deep anonymity. Sola Saar is a writer and artist based in Los Angeles, who received an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University and a BA from UC Berkeley.

The Novel Prize offers US$10,000 to the winner in the form of an advance against royalties, and simultaneous publication of their novel in Australia and New Zealand by Sydney publisher Giramondo; in the UK and Ireland by the London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions; and in North America by New York’s New Directions. The judges are looking for novels which explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style.

The inaugural prize was won by Australian author Jessica Au for Cold Enough for Snow, which was published in English in February 2022 and is set to be published in 18 territories.

The Novel Prize is managed by the three publishers working in collaboration. Submissions were open from 1 April to 1 July 2022, with Giramondo reading submissions from Asia and Australasia, Fitzcarraldo Editions from Africa and Europe, and New Directions from the Americas. The winner will be announced in February 2023, and published in early 2024.

Congratulations to the shortlisted authors.