Guy Gunaratne wins Dylan Thomas Prize for 'stunning' debut novel

Guy Gunaratne wins Dylan Thomas Prize for 'stunning' debut novel

Guy Gunaratne has won this year’s £30,000 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for his "stunning multi-voice debut novel" In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline).

The 35-year-old human rights documentary filmmaker, turned debut novelist, was awarded the prize at a ceremony at Swansea University. 

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.

Gunaratne said: “Dylan Thomas has always meant a lot to me, he’s a writer I’ve always turned to for inspiration. And after winning this prize, my mind really just goes to all the other writers, or aspiring writers, who are writing from a place similar to where I began. A place like Neasden, somewhere I always thought was a nowhere place. But to make art out of the world, the language, the voices I grew up around I always felt was important. That’s all I tried to do with this book.”

The other titles shortlisted for the 2019 prize were: House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Atlantic), Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Riverrun), Trinity by Louisa Hall (Ecco), Folk by Zoe Gilbert (Bloomsbury) and Melmoth by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail).

After careful deliberation the winner was chosen by a judging panel chaired by Swansea University Professor Dai Smith CBE along with acclaimed poet and Professor Kurt Heinzelman from the University of Texas, Books Editor for the BBC Di Speirs and award-winning novelist Kit de Waal.

Chair of the judges Professor Dai Smith CBE said: “Once in a while, a work of fiction appears which uses voice, style and story, as only works of the imagination can, to let us enter, to makes us see, to demand we understand lives and circumstances seldom given that centre stage position in our contemporary culture and society. This is what Guy Gunaratne’s stunning multi-voice debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City sets out to do and bravely achieves for marginal lives, young and old, in the unforgiving whirlpool of London today.”

In Our Mad and Furious City burst into our consciousness in 2018 providing an "urgent, timely and compelling" fictional account of 48 hours in a North West London housing estate after the murder of a British soldier, as told through three narrators. Gunaratne has been lauded for providing an authentic voice to marginalised sectors of society and for shining a spotlight on the very real experiences of youths from minority backgrounds. 

The award comes after Gunaratne won the Jhalak Prize for his debut earlier this month as well as making the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction longlist.