Debuts dominate the shortlist in this year’s £30,000 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers.
The annual prize, first launched in 2006, is awarded for the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under. Its 2019 shortlist, announced this morning (2nd April), includes four debuts alongside novels from Louisa Hall and previous nominee Sarah Perry.
Among those shortlisted are Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah for his first short story collection Friday Black (Riverrun), exploring growing up as a black American male, and In Our Mad and Furious City, the Booker-longlisted debut novel by Guy Gunaratne (Tinder Press).
Zoe Gilbert makes the list for nature-writing and folklore-inspired debut Folk (Bloomsbury), while Zimbabwean Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is in with a shout for first novel House of Stone (Atlantic) about the bloody birth of her nation. Melmoth by Perry (Serpent’s Tail) and Hall’s exploration of Robert Oppenheimer’s life, Trinity (Ecco), are also shortlisted.
The list was drawn up by a judging panel chaired by Swansea University Professor Dai Smith with Professor Kurt Heinzelman, BBC books editor Di Speirs and novelist Kit de Waal.
Smith said: “Yet again the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize has uncovered a wealth of new talent representing a group of contemporary and diverse voices from across the world. They are linked by a passion for individual sensibilities against a backdrop of history; sometimes violent, always life changing. No doubt these six writers will go on to make their distinctive voices heard, contributing to that timeless canon of literature that entrances, challenges and provokes.”
The award winner will be announced in a ceremony at Swansea University on 16th May. Last year’s prize was scooped by poet Kayo Chingonyi for debut collection Kumukanda (Chatto & Windus).