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The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2024 Shortlist and Winner

By Mythily Merai, Grace Briggs-Jones, Clara Garnier-Barsanti and Maria Sadek


The Republic of Consciousness Prize has quickly established itself as a significant platform for recognizing the artistry and creativity of authors published by smaller presses. This prize not only acknowledges the outstanding quality of fiction emerging from the UK and Ireland, but also highlights the invaluable contributions made by independent publishers in nurturing literary talent. This annual British Prize was founded by Neil Griffiths and first awarded in 2017. Categories include novels, short stories and works in translation. The prize money – initially raised by crowdfunding and now aided by sponsorship – is divided between the publishing house and the author. Each of the longlisted presses is awarded £500. The 5 shortlisted presses receive an additional £1,000 each, with 25% going to the writer.


The shortlist for The Republic of Consciousness Prize was released on 11 March, and the winner was announced on 17 April at Foyles. The judging panel included Declan O’Driscoll, Sana Goyal and Rebecca Abrams. Each judge brought a unique perspective and expertise to the table, ensuring a fair and thorough evaluation of the diverse submissions. The prize celebrates independent publishers who push boundaries and champion innovative and thought-provoking literature, making it a great prize for book lovers who want to discover hidden gems that may have slipped under the radar of mainstream publishing.

Our first shortlisted book is Out of Earth, written by Sheyla Smanioto and translated by Laura Garmeson and Sophie Lewis from Brazilian Portuguese. The book didn’t win the main prize but was awarded the accolade of Special Mention. It’s no wonder, as this unique, lyrical book has been picking up awards across the world since its publication in June 2023. The novel follows four generations of female characters navigating various hardships, set against a sparse Brazilian landscape. A worthy runner-up indeed!


The next book in the shortlist is brought to us by Cassava Republic. Founded in Nigeria with offices in Abuja and London, this independent press aims “to change the way we all think about African writing”. The press believes the “time has come to build a new body of African writing that (...) ask[s] challenging questions (...) – where have we come from, where are we now, where are we going?” Farai Mudzingwa brings to this conversation a brash and confident debut with Avenues by Train. The book is heavily influenced by music, and Farai has shared a Spotify playlist of titles directly or indirectly mentioned in the novel. The book intertwines many other themes: spirituality, with the influences of Christianism and Shona; identity, with the aftermaths of colonialism and the psychological consequences of independence war; and survival and ecological damage, as the protagonist Jdeza attempts to make a living after seeing his friend die in a crash.

Whoever loves Decameron by Boccaccio, dry humour or socially influenced texts should read The Zekameron. Subtitled “One hundred tales from behind the bars and eyelashes'' and translated from Belarus by Jim & Ella Dingley, these little texts were smuggled out of the country as their author Maxim Znak, a lawyer advocating for free and fair elections, was being sentenced to a decade of prison.

The fourth shortlisted book was, according to the judges, ‘[a]mbitious in scope and execution. [An] amazingly well-sustained, multi-layered, many-voiced novel. A joy to read’. Written by Yu Miri and translated by Morgan Giles, The End of August follows Lee Woo-Cheol, a running prodigy and contender for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, and his granddaughter as she trains for a marathon nearly a decade later. Miri sheds light on the experiences of Japan’s Zainichi communities in a poetic masterpiece about a family that endured death, love, betrayal, war, political upheaval and ghosts. This epic multi-generational novel is a must read!

The judges called the final book on the shortlist ‘[a] stunning thriller of sorts. So understated. So powerful. So heartbreaking.’ Ana Paula Maia’s Of Cattle and Men, translated by Zoë Perry, focuses on Senhor Milo’s slaughterhouse and the reliable, responsible stun operator Edgar Wilson. In an impoverished, desolate corner of Brazil, cows are panicking and suddenly running over cliffs and into walls. It’s clear that something is driving men and animals to murder and madness. An ‘[i]ntense and provocative’ book that goes ‘straight for the jugular’ according to Publishers Weekly, the novella was described by Rebecca Abrams as ‘[u]nderstated, mesmerising, and unflinching…a devastating universal parable for our times.’ It’s no wonder Of Cattle and Men is the winner of the 2024 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses. A huge congratulations to Ana and Zoë on the win!



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