Debuts dominate Dylan Thomas shortlist

Debuts dominate Dylan Thomas shortlist

Four debut authors make up the female-dominated shortlist of six for the 10th edition of the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize which celebrates the "brightest young writers in the world".

Worth £30,000, it is the world’s largest literary prize for young writers aged 39 or under, and is open to writers from all nations writing in English.

"Last year sparked this century’s biggest gender equality movement, and this year’s female-led international shortlist brings to the fore crucial themes of sexual violence, toxic relationships, masculinity and racial divisions, that are relevant across the world", said a spokesperson for the prize. "Just as Dylan Thomas’ universal poetry captured the grief and loss of innocence in post-war Britain, the prize showcases the breadth and diversity of literature that captures the political zeitgeist of today".

Featured on the shortlist this year are Zambian-born poet, MC and music producer Kayo Chingonyi for his debut collection of poetry Kumakanda (Chatto), which explores the rites of passage boys go through to become men, the intersection of masculinity and race and what it means to be British and not British, all at once; Cuban-American short-story writer Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties (Serpent's Tail) which explores the eroticism, violence and emotion of the female experience through a potent mix of science fiction, ghost stories and fairytales, and British novelist Gwendoline Riley who has been shortlisted for First Love (Granta), a "compelling" tale of toxic love and poisonous partnerships which has been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize.

Also shortlisted are Irish debut novelist and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Sally Rooney for her "runaway success" Conversations with Friends (Faber), debut American novelist Emily Ruskovich, for her thriller Idaho, which tells the story of a mother suddenly killing her six-year-old daughter, and American thriller author Gabriel Tallent for his debut novel My Absolute Darling (4th Estate), called “the year’s must-read novel” by the Times and "a masterpiece" by Stephen King.

In 2017, Australian writer Fiona McFarlane won The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for her collection of short stores, The High Places (Sceptre).

Professor Dai Smith CBE of Swansea University, chair of the judges said: "The shortlist of the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe. There are two startling and searing novels from contemporary America; two other novels which engage in a forensic examination of love and loathing, from England and Ireland; an inventively original collection of short stories from the USA and a challenging, poised work of poetry which takes us to the core of a divided Britain. The judges will have a difficult job over the next two months to find a winner from what is already a list of winners."

Along with Smith, this year’s judging panel also features: founder and director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale; winner of the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize novelist and playwright, Rachel Trezise; poet, translator, and scholar, Professor Kurt Heinzelman; and author and founder of London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 10th May at an award ceremony at Swansea University’s Great Hall, in the run up to International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May commemorating 65 years since Dylan Thomas’ death. The British Library will be hosting a special public event with all the shortlisted author on Tuesday 8th May.

The shortlisted authors will also participate in the DylanED programme, an initiative set up by Swansea University in conjunction with the prize to engage young people with international literature and Wales’ cultural history. The shortlist is directly involved in the programme that runs all year round, and authors have previously done workshops with local college students, given readings and talks at local schools, and given masterclasses at the University. Since 2016 Welsh students are invited to review books from the shortlist for the DylanED Book Review Competition and will present their winning reviews at a special winner’s ceremony in front of the shortlisted authors.

The Bookseller will be conducting interviews with each of the six shortlisted authors in the lead up to the winner's announcement.