Ali Smith wins the Goldsmiths Prize 2014

How to be Both by Ali Smith has won the Goldsmiths Prize for boldly original fiction

Smith was presented with the £10,000 literary prize for her novel that innovates both in form, which borrows from the techniques of fresco painting, and in its inventive publication.

The book is published in two versions so that readers can encounter its two parts in a different order. Two possible stories are presented as the first section; one about the life of a once celebrated Italian fresco painter, and one about a teenage girl who is grieving for her mother.

The Prize is now in its second year and was created by Goldsmiths, University of London in association with the New Statesman to recognise published fiction that opens up new possibilities for the novel form.

Speaking about the Prize ahead of the award ceremony, held at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road, Smith said: "This prize is really about the thing closest to your heart if you work with the novel as a form, if you’re interested in the form of the novel and the form of language. The point of this is that it’s about language, about all the things a novel can do, not just some of the things a novel can do. That’s what this prize is about. It’s about the multi-variousness, the everything the novel can do is included in this prize.”

The Prize was judged by an expert panel consisting of authors Kirsty Gunn and Geoff Dyer, New Statesman Culture Editor Tom Gatti and Chair of Judges Francis Spufford, who is also a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths.

"This prize is really about the thing closest to your heart if you work with the novel as a form" - Ali Smith, winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2014

Francis Spufford commented: "We are proud to give this year's Goldsmiths Prize to a book which confirms that formal innovation is completely compatible with pleasure - that it can be, in fact, a renewal of the writer's compact with the reader to delight and to astonish.”

Tom Gatti added: "Ali Smith’s How to be Both is a playful and profound book that pushes the novel into thrilling new shapes. The New Statesman is delighted to continue its partnership with the Goldsmiths Prize, which has again proven its knack for rewarding the most remarkable works of fiction."

The Prize is open to novels written by authors from the UK or the Republic of Ireland, and was created in conjunction with the Goldsmiths Writers' Centre, headed up by acclaimed author Professor Blake Morrison, which hosts events aimed at encouraging new writing and stimulating debate about literature.

The novels shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2014 were:

  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber & Faber)
  • The Absent Therapist by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
  • J by Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)
  • In The Light Of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman (Picador)
  • How To Be Both by Ali Smith (Penguin)