The Republic of Consciousness is an expression of the effect of a particular kind of writing. While I’m sure there are examples before Shakespeare, for our purposes the Shakespearean soliloquy might be regarded as the first explicit attempt to deliver us into the consciousness of another person, to take us from being mere witnesses to a character’s behavior to participating in their lived experience.
It is an act of phenomenological conjuring, which in slightly less technical parlance means the re-creation of a perceived world without any mediating voice. Of course there is a contradiction in this definition: the novel or play is an artefact, a work of fiction, and a long way from direct prehension of phenomena.
And yet. There are writers whose work suggests that human consciousness beyond their own can be accessed, and through that the categorical unknowableness of others’ lived experience might be revealed. It is writing as a moral act. The Republic of Consciousness is here to support and celebrate this.
Now in its third year, the Republic of Consciousness Prize celebrates “brave and bold literary fiction” published by small presses in the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth. Essentially crowd-funded (with founder Neil Griffiths describing his approach to funding as putting "a bit of a guilt trip on high-selling literary novelists"), the prize highlights the commitment by small presses to value innovation and vibrancy over mainstream marketability.
You can read a little about the shortlist titles below, and be sure to browse our Republic of Consciousness shelf the next time you visit us!
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz
Translated by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff
In a forgotten patch of French countryside, a woman is battling her demons – embracing exclusion yet wanting to belong, craving freedom whilst feeling trapped, yearning for family life but at the same time wanting to burn the entire house down. Given surprising leeway by her family for her increasingly erratic behaviour, she nevertheless feels ever more stifled and repressed. Motherhood, womanhood, the banality of love, the terrors of desire, the inexplicable brutality of ‘another person carrying your heart forever’ – Die, My Love faces all this with a raw intensity. It’s not a question of if a breaking point will be reached, but rather when and how violent a form will it take?
This is a brutal, wild book – it’s impossible to come out from reading Ariana Harwicz unscathed. The language of Die, My Love cuts like a scalpel even as it attains a kind of cinematic splendour, evoking the likes of John Cassavetes, David Lynch, Lars von Trier and John Ford. In a text that explores the destabilising effects of passion and its absence, immersed in the psyche of a female protagonist always on the verge of madness, in the tradition of Sylvia Plath and Clarice Lispector, Harwicz moulds language, submitting it to her will in irreverent prose. Bruising and confrontational, yet anchored in an unapologetic beauty and lyricism, Die, My Love is a unique reading experience that quickly becomes addictive.
Published by Charco Press on 4th September 2017
Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner
Gaudy Bauble stages a glittering world populated by Gilbert & George-like lesbians, GoldSeXUal StatuEttes, anti-drag kings, maverick detectives, a transgender army equipped with question-mark-shaped helmets, and pets who have dyke written all over them. Everyone interferes with the plot. No one is in control of the plot. Surprises happen as a matter of course: A fauxresearch process produces actual results. A digital experiment goes viral. Hundreds of lipstick marks requicken a dying body. And the Deadwood-to-Dynamo Audience Prize goes to whoever turns deadestwood into dynamost. Gaudy Bauble stages what happens when the disenfranchised are calling the shots. Riff-raff are running the show and they are making a difference.
Published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe on 14th May 2017
Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre
Translated by Sophie Lewis
A French woman haunted by her encounter with an American-German pianist-composer who is obsessed with Arnold Schoenberg's portrait, flies home with her lively sister and a volume of Adorno's letters to Thomas Mann. While the impossible heroine unpicks her social failures the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg's passionate, chilling blue. A novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin's cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore.
Published by Les Fugitives on 15h June 2017
We that are Young by Preti Taneja
Jivan Singh, the bastard scion of the Devraj family, returns to his childhood home after a long absence – only to witness the unexpected resignation of the ageing patriarch from the vast corporation he founded, the Devraj Company. On the same day, Sita, Devraj’s youngest daughter, absconds – refusing to submit to the marriage her father wants for her. Meanwhile, Radha and Gargi, Sita’s older sisters, are handed the Company… And so begins a brutal, deathly struggle for power, ranging over the luxury hotels and spas of New Delhi and Amritsar, the Palaces and slums of Napurthala, to Srinagar, Kashmir.
Told in astonishing prose – a great torrent of words and imagery – We that are Young is a modern-day King Lear that bursts with energy and fierce, beautifully measured rage. Set against the backdrop of the anti-corruption riots in 2011–2012, it provides startling insights into modern India, the clash of youth and age, the hectic pace of life in one of the world’s fastest growing economies – and the ever-present spectre of death. More than that, this is a novel about the human heart. And its breaking point.
Published by Galley Beggar Press on 10th August 2017
Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams
This debut collection from Eley Williams centres upon the difficulties of communication and the way in which one’s thoughts — absurd, encompassing, oblique — may never be fully communicable and yet can overwhelm.
Attrib. and other stories celebrates the tricksiness of language just as it confronts its limits. Correspondingly, the stories are littered with the physical ephemera of language: dictionaries, dog-eared pages, bookmarks and old coffee stains on older books. This is writing that centres on the weird, tender intricacies of the everyday where characters vie to 'own' their words, tell tall tales and attempt to define their worlds.
With affectionate, irreverent and playful prose, the inability to communicate exactly what we mean dominates this bold debut collection from one of Britain’s most original new writers.
Published by Influx Press on 23rd March 2017
Darker With The Lights On By David Hayden
Driven ceaselessly, hypnotically forward by a powerful, deeply felt narrative force, the stories in this debut collection pull off that rare trick of captivating the reader, while twisting the form into truly new shapes. Comprising compelling stories made memorable by an imagist’s flair for photographic observation and unsettling, often startling, emotional landscapes, Darker With the Lights On introduces a mesmeric new literary talent with seismic potential.