The international longlist for one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – is announced today, featuring a record number of nine debut writers.
The list comprises nine novels, two poetry collections and one short story collection, and at a time when travel has been restricted and contact with loved ones limited, these extraordinary titles – eight of which are by female writers – transport the reader from Seoul to Hong Kong, Syria to Kilburn, Montana to Dublin, in a powerful exploration of homeland, identity, and relationships:
- Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Picador) – short story collection
- Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (Viking, Penguin Random House UK) – novel
- Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel
- Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – novel
- The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber) – novel
- Rendang by Will Harris (Granta) – poetry collection
- The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes (Oneworld) – novel
- Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel
- Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel
- Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Picador) – novel
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel
The nine new voices on the list includes four of the most dynamic female novelists writing today: Naoise Dolan and her deadpan debut Exciting Times, Frances Cha’s vivid dissection of consumerism in If I Had Your Face, Kate Elizabeth Russell and her unflinching exploration of sexual consent in My Dark Vanessa, and Raven Leilani’s acerbic novel of the moment, Luster. The line-up of first novels is completed by Gabriel Krauze and his brutal novel based on a personal experience of London gang violence, Who They Was, and Kingdomtide, the suspenseful story of survival from Rye Curtis.
There are two debut poets up for the £20,000 prize – Philippines born NHS nurse Romalyn Ante and her expansive Antiemetic for Homesickness, and Will Harris, who draws on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage to create a sharp exploration of cultural identity in Rendang – and one short story collection: the first title from Syria born Dima Alzayat, whose Alligator and Other Stories captures how it feels to be ‘other’ through nine powerful tales.
The three remaining titles in contention are The Death of Vivek Oji, the second novel from Igbo and Tamil, non-binary author Akwaeke Emezi, the foreboding Pew by Catherine Lacey, and Caoilinn Hughes’ powerful The Wild Laughter, set during the wake of the Celtic Tiger devastation.
Worth £20,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.
The longlist will now be whittled to a six strong shortlist by a judging panel chaired by award-winning writer, publisher and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale alongside founder and director of the Bradford Literature Festival, Syima Aslam, poet Stephen Sexton, writer Joshua Ferris and novelist and academic Francesca Rhydderch.
On receiving the 2020 award for his debut short story collection, LOT, the twenty-seven-year-old American writer Bryan Washington said: “It's a gift whenever an audience gives you the time of day for a story, whatever that is, let alone to be acknowledged for your work on such a massive platform. And it's an honour to tell stories about the communities that are dear to me, and the communities that I live among - marginalized communities, communities of colour, and queer communities of colour, specifically... I'm very grateful.”
The longlist announcement is followed by a special online event at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival in February 2021.
The shortlist announcement will take place on 25 March, with the winner revealed on 13 May, the eve of International Dylan Thomas Day.