The shortlist for the Gordon Burn prize has been announced as “blazing.”
The nominees for this year’s Gordon Burn prize, which honors the most daring and inventive books of the year, include Booker-shortlisted writer Jonathan Escoffery and Guardian Ireland correspondent Rory Carroll.
The list includes a variety of literary works such as novels, short stories, memoirs, and history books. The stories cover a wide range of topics, from the IRA’s attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher to the coming-of-age journey of an Inuk girl in the Arctic.
This year’s shortlist includes seven titles, a first for the award which usually only has five or six finalists. Terri White, the judging chair and journalist, commented that they were “greedy” for including seven books, but after extensive discussions, it was decided that all seven outstanding and diverse books deserved to be recognized for the prize and honor Gordon’s writing legacy.
The award was established in 2012 to recognize literature that breaks boundaries, blends genres, or dares to defy reader expectations as a tribute to writer Gordon Burn, who passed away from cancer in 2009.
Carroll was selected as a potential candidate for “Killing Thatcher,” a retelling of the 1984 Brighton bombing. Meanwhile, Escoffery was put forward for his book “If I Survive You,” a compilation of eight interconnected short stories about a Jamaican family living in Miami and facing economic struggles and discrimination.
Megan Nolan has been nominated for this year’s shortlist for her second novel, Ordinary Human Failings, which explores the story of a family involved in a crime. The novel has also been shortlisted for the first ever Nero book awards.
White noted that the judges frequently had difficulty pinpointing the appropriate term to describe the shortlisted books. They found that labels such as “novel,” “memoir,” “true crime,” and “biography” were not adequate for books that defied categorization by combining, merging, destroying, and transforming elements. This led them to question, what exactly are we reading?
Other contenders for the prize included Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life written by Anna Funder, which delves into the story of Eileen O’Shaughnessy; O Brother by John Niven, a personal account of his brother’s tragic death; Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan, inspired by conversations with a horse trainer from the American Midwest; and Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq, a fictional tale of a young Inuk girl’s coming-of-age in 1970s Nunavut, Canada.
Sheena Patel, a prize judge and author, stated that the books embody the principles of Gordon Burn by pushing boundaries and presenting well-crafted stories with powerful writing as their foundation.
The announcement of the winner will take place on March 7 at a special event in Newcastle, the hometown of Burn. The recipient will be awarded £10,000 and will have the chance to participate in a writing retreat at Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire.
As a judge and journalist, Andrew Hankinson stated that the list of books we have chosen will inspire writers to improve their skills. These books offer a diverse selection of stories, perspectives, and writing styles. Each book on the list is outstanding.
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, an author, will join White, Hankinson, and Patel as a judge on the panel. Past recipients of the award include Benjamin Myers, Peter Pomerantsev, and Hanif Abdurraqib. Preti Taneja was the winner last year for her analysis of the 2019 London Bridge terrorist attack, titled “Aftermath.”