We are delighted to announce that Matthew McNaught has won the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, an annual competition for British and Irish writers yet to have secured a publishing deal, rewarding the best proposal for a book-length essay. McNaught was awarded the prize for Immanuel, an essay about faith, doubt and radical religion, inspired in part by his experiences growing up in an evangelical Christian community in the south of England. He lives in Southampton, where he works in mental health, and has written for n+1.
McNaught will receive £3,000 in the form of an advance against publication with Fitzcarraldo Editions, and will have the opportunity to spend up to three months in residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, during the summer of 2016, to work on Immanuel, which will then be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2017.His winning proposal was one of seventy entries, and one of five to be shortlisted. The other four shortlisted entries were:
– Corona by Felix Bazalgette, an essay inspired by the crash of Corona satellite #1005 in Venezuela in 1964, the history of aerial photography, the use of vision as metaphor, and the lies that sustain militaries.
– Bad For You by Alice Hattrick, an essay about perfume and all its associations blending life writing with criticism, and drawing on personal experiences of death, gendered and psychosomatic illness and emotional attachments, as well as art and its history.
– Growing up Modern by Jennifer Kabat, a collection of essays exploring art, war and the landscape, examining modernism’s legacy, and what might be scavenged from it.
– Double-Tracking by Rosanna Mclaughlin. Inspired by Tom Wolfe’s notion of duplicitous identities, Double-Tracking looks at the cultural phenomenon of ‘being both’ – whether establishment and bohemian, butcher and aesthete, or an ingenue and initiate of high-culture – tracing the history of duplicity through mythology and literature, philosophy, fashion, the art market, politics, photography and camp. .
The prize, which was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Paul Keegan, Ali Smith and Jacques Testard, was set up to find the best emerging essay writers and aims to reward essays that explore and expand the possibilities of the form. Made possible by an Arts Council Grant in 2015, it provides the winning author with their first experiences of publishing a book, from the planning, research and writing of it through to the editing, production and publicity stages.
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Joanna Biggs is a writer and editor at the London Review of Books. Her book about the way we work, All Day Long, is published by Serpent’s Tail.
Brian Dillon is a writer and critic. His books include The Great Explosion (Penguin, 2015), Objects in This Mirror: Essays (Sternberg Press, 2014), Sanctuary (Sternberg Press, 2011), Tormented Hope (Penguin, 2009) and In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005). He is UK editor of Cabinet magazine, and teaches critical writing at the Royal College of Art.
Paul Keegan has been editor of the Penguin Classics and Faber poetry editor; he co-founded Notting Hill Editions, has edited the Collected Poems of Ted Hughes and The Penguin Book of English Verse.
Ali Smith was born in Inverness and lives in Cambridge. Her latest novel is How to be both (2014 Hamish Hamilton / Penguin) and her latest collection of stories is Public library and other stories (2015, Hamish Hamilton).
Jacques Testard is the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions, and a founding editor of The White Review.
The Mahler & LeWitt Studios are established around the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto, Italy. The residency programme provides a focussed and stimulating environment for artists, curators and writers to develop new ways of working in dialogue with peers and the unique cultural heritage of the region. For more information please visit mahler-lewitt.org.