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Nicola Barker ‘cannot make any excuses' for prize-winning novel

Barker says H(a)ppy is a book about faith.

Author Nicola Barker has said she cannot “make excuses” for her idiosyncratic novel H(a)ppy as it scooped this year’s Goldsmiths Prize.

She became the first English novelist to win the award, which includes a £10,000 cash sum, during a ceremony at Foyles bookshop in central London on Wednesday.

The ambitious work is presented like an illuminated manuscript for the digital age, breaking up lines with coloured words, injecting spaces and diagrams, and carving symbols into the type.

Goldsmiths Prize 2017
H(a)ppy was named winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2017 (Goldsmiths/PA)

Barker, from Ely in Cambridgeshire, said: “Once I’ve finished writing a book I never think about it again.

“I kind of just move on and this book, I suppose it’s about the distinction between joy, desire and pleasure. It’s about what makes you happy, it’s about the limits of information and truth.

“I suppose it’s a book about faith, it’s a book about suffering, confusion, it’s a modern book but… quite crazy – I can’t make any excuses for it. It’s written in colour.”

Barker beat competition from Will Self’s Phone, Gwendoline Riley’s First Love, Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, Kevin Davey’s Playing Possum and Sara Baume’s A Line Made By Walking.

Naomi Wood, chairwoman of the judging panel and lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, praised the innovation, saying: “Nicola Barker’s H(a)ppy is a structural marvel to hold in the mind and in the hands.

“Line by line, colour by colour, this dystopic utopia is an ingenious closed loop of mass surveillance, technology, and personality-modifying psychopharmaceuticals.

“H(a)ppy is a fabulous demonstration of what the Goldsmiths Prize champions: innovation of form that only ever enriches the story.

“In Barker’s 3D-sculpture of a novel, H(a)ppy makes the case for the novel as a physical form and an object of art.”

H(a)ppy is her 11th novel after works including Wide Open, Darkmans, The Yips and In The Approaches.

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