The 2023 longlist

The international longlist for one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is announced today, Thursday 26 January. With authors hailing from the UK, Ireland, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Lebanon and Australia, this year’s longlist of 12 features an even split of debut and established names, with African diaspora and female voices dominating the longlist.

Through themes of coming of age, adversity and love, this year’s longlist comprises eight novels, two poetry collections and two short story collections:

  • Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books) – novel (Australia)
  • Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press) – novel (Ireland)
  • God's Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – short story collection (Nigeria)
  • Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
  • Phantom Gang by Ciaran O'Rourke (The Irish Pages Press) – poetry collection (Ireland)
  • Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor (Oneworld) – novel (Kenya)
  • Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu (Canongate Books) – novel (UK)
  • I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books) – novel (UK)
  • Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing) – short story collection (UK)
  • Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection (Somalia-UK)
  • Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
  • No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib (Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin) – novel (Lebanon)

African diaspora writers are some of the new authors to watch out for on this year’s longlist. Somali-British writer Warsan Shire, the celebrated poet behind Beyoncé’s features Lemonade and Black is King, pays homage to Black women and teenage girls in Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, while Kenyan born, German based Okwiri Oduor uses magical realism to brilliant effect in Things They Lost. Nigeria’s Arinze Ifeakandu explores what it means to be a queer male in his home country in the remarkable God's Children Are Little Broken Things, and Derek Owusu considers the generational impact of a mother’s journey from Ghana to the UK in his second novel, Losing the Plot.

Totalling eight of the 12 nominations, female voices dominate this year’s longlist including up-and-coming British literary talent exploring how it feels to come of age in a hostile environment: Saba Sam’s tender and witty Send Nudes  highlights the confusing double standards facing women today; Sheena Patel offers a piercing critique of social media and heteronormative relationships in I’m a Fan; sexual politics are skewered by the teenage female protagonist of Briefly, A Delicious LifeNell Stevens’ foray into fiction— while Maddie Mortimer’s Desmond Elliott prize-winning Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies offers a darkly funny depiction of a mother-daughter relationship.

Elsewhere on the longlist, books consider national identity and the search for home. Australian Robbie Arnott’s spellbinding coming-of-age novel, Limberlost, transports readers to rural Tasmania whilst the notion of home takes a troubling turn in No Land to Light On, the heart wrenching second novel from Lebanon born Yara Zgheib, who portrays a young Syrian couple torn apart by a hostile travel ban. Turning to Ireland, Ciaran O'Rourke’s daring poetry collection Phantom Gang considers global inequalities from the context of his homeland, and Sara Baume depicts a young couple’s attempts to disappear into the Irish countryside in the stunning Seven Steeples.

The longlisted titles will now be whittled down to a six strong shortlist by an impressive panel of judges chaired by esteemed British producer and Books Editor for BBC Radio Di Speirs, alongside prize-winning Welsh author and lecturer in English at Swansea University, Jon Gower, American bestselling author and 2012 winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize winner Maggie Shipstead, British poet and the founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Women of Colour, Rachel Long, and Nepali Indian author and 2013 Prize shortlistee Prajwal Parajuly.

Worth £20,000, the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize 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.

American poet, novelist and essayist Patricia Lockwood received the award in 2022 for her inventive debut novel, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing). Chair of the 2022 Judges, Namita Gokhale, said: “No One Is Talking About This is a vital reflection on online culture today. A deeply timely winner, Patricia Lockwood is the voice of a generation of new writers who grew up under the constant pressures of real-time news and social media.”

The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 March followed by the winner’s ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May.

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