Kenneth Steven’s prescient novel named on Portico Prize longlist

Posted on September 30, 2019

Kenneth Steven’s 2020, a novel depicting Britain at breaking point, has been longlisted for the prestigious Portico Prize, along with outstanding authors Kerry Hudson, Helen Mort, Ben Myers, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Charlesworth, Adelle Stripe, Stuart Maconie, Richard Skelton, Glen James Brown, Graham Caveney, Jessica Andrews and Michael Symmons Roberts.

The Portico Library says that the longlist “explores the myriad themes of identity, belonging, gender, class and the meaning of place – all connected by the spirit of the North.

“This year’s list includes six debut novels and ten independent publishers, and spans fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, poetry, place writing, biography, a graphic history and travel writing.”

First published in 2017, and written before the 2016 Brexit referendum was announced, 2020 depicts a country sorely divided after years of economic turmoil.  Bitter debates of immigration and anger at the political elite have created a dis-United Kingdom. The country is a bomb waiting to explode. Then it does…

We are thrilled to see Kenneth on the longlist. He writes beautifully, but more than that, this particular story suggests he has a sixth sense – a US reviewer even compared it with Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds in being so easily taken as real. Kenneth wrote the book in 2015 and before populist demagogues, faultlines in society and politicians’ provocative constitutional manoeuvring had emerged as themes in our daily discourse.

It is incredible that Kenneth could imagine such a plausible dystopia and create it with such insight and sensitivity, and as a commentary on the futility of violence, let alone for it to prove as eerily prescient as Orwell’s 1984.