The shortlist for this year's Republic of Consciousness Prize was announced yesterday and once again it features titles from some of our favourite small presses. Take a look at the contenders below and reserve online or pop in and browse, and keep an eye out for the winner to be announced on March 28th.
Dedalus by Chris McCabe
Friday 17th June 1904. Stephen Dedalus wakes up in a Dublin Martello tower, hungover but with winnings in the pocket of his borrowed trousers. Dedalus goes about his day. Settling scores and debts. Pursued by the ghosts of his mother, Hamlet, and now a man called Leopold Bloom who has woken up with plans for him. The young poet weaves hopes and ideas into burning wings of ambition. Can he elude death in the passages of books? McCabe s iconoclastic tribute to James Joyce s masterpiece gives right-of-reply to his self-portrait, Stephen Dedalus. Stephen and Bloom, cut from Joyce s ego, become cultural types pasted into Digital Age storytelling.
Published by Henningham Family Press on 2nd August 2018
Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić
Translated by Celia Hawkesworth & S. D. Curtis
Doppelgänger consists of two stories that skillfully revisit the question of “doubles” (famously explored by Stevenson, Dostoyevsky and others), and how an individual is perpetually caught between their own beliefs and those imposed on them by society. ‘Arthur and Isabella’ is a story of the relationship between two elderly people who meet on New Year’s Eve — a romantic encounter which turns into a grotesque portrayal of the loneliness of old age. The second story ‘Pupi’ — a strange mirror of the first — centres on the life of a man who ends up on the streets and associates only with street-sellers and the rhinoceroses in the zoo. Together these tales create the highly original atmosphere that Drndić is famous for in all her works.
Published by Istros on 15th October 2018
Kitch by Anthony Joseph
Combining factual biography with the imaginative structure and investment in the language of the novel, Anthony Joseph fully engages with the world he recreates, and by presenting a multifaceted view from Kitch’s friends, rivals and even enemies, he gets to the heart of the man behind the music and the myth, reaching behind the sobriquet to present a holistic portrait of the calypso icon Lord Kitchener.
Born into colonial Trinidad in 1922 as Aldwyn Roberts, ‘Kitch’ emerged in the 1950s, at the forefront of multicultural Britain, acting as an intermediary between the growing Caribbean community, the islands they had left behind, and the often hostile conditions of life in post-war Britain. In the process, Kitch, as he was affectionally called, single-handedly popularised the calypso in Britain, with recordings such as ‘London is the Place for Me’, ‘The Underground Train’ and ‘Ghana’.
Joseph spoke to Lord Kitchener just once, in 1984, when he found the calypso icon standing alone for a moment in Queen’s Park Savannah, one Carnival Monday afternoon. It was a pivotal meeting in which the great calypsonian outlined his musical vision, an event which forms a moving epilogue to Kitch, Joseph’s unique biography of the Grandmaster.
Published by Peepal Tree Press on 21st June 2018
Lucia by Alex Pheby
“Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently… Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straitjacket.”
So wrote James Joyce in 1940, in a letter about his only daughter, Lucia. It is one of the few surviving contemporary portraits of her troubled life. Most other references to her have been lost. An attempt has been made to erase her from the pages of history.
We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia – and repeatedly hospitalised. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum.
And, after her death, her voice was silenced. Her letters were burned. Correspondence concerning her disappeared from the Joyce archive. Her story has been shrouded in mystery, the tomb door slammed behind her.
Alex Pheby’s extraordinary new novel takes us inside that darkness. In sharp, cutting shards of narrative, Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce. And while it presents these stories in vivid and heart-breaking detail, it also questions what it means to recreate a life. It is not an attempt to speak for Lucia. Rather, it is an act of empathy and contrition that constantly questions what it means to speak for other people.
Lucia is intellectually uncompromising. Lucia is emotionally devastating. Lucia is unlike anything anyone else has ever written.
Released by Galley Beggar Press on 14th June 2018
Murmur by Will Eaves
In Murmur, a hallucinatory masterwork, Will Eaves invites us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for "gross indecency with another male" and forced to undergo chemical castration. Set during the devastating period before Turing's suicide, Murmur evokes an extraordinary life, the beauty and sorrows of love, and the nature of consciousness
Released by CB Editions on 19th March 2018
Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine
A reclusive cult-rock icon ends his days in the street where he was born; a lonely woman is fascinated by her niqab-wearing neighbours; a husband and wife become enmeshed in the lives of the young couple they pay to do their cleaning and gardening. Set in contemporary East Belfast, these acutely observed short stories come charged with regret and sorrow, desire and yearning. With clear-eyed compassion and wry humour, Wendy Erskine deftly lays bare her characters’ struggle to maintain control in an often cruel world, where tragic events cast long shadows. Sweet Home heralds the arrival of a wonderfully compelling and truly distinctive new voice.