Viking has triumphed in a nine-way auction for Caleb Azumah Nelson’s "intensely moving" debut novel, Open Water.
Isabel Wall, editor at Viking, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Seren Adams at United Agents following a competitive nine-way auction in a "significant" deal. Open Water will be published in hardback in February 2021.
"Open Water is a stunning, shattering debut novel about two young people falling in and out of love in contemporary South London. Both are black British, both attended schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them," said Viking. "Open Water is first and foremost the story of a devastating love affair, but it is also a powerful exploration of racism and masculinity, as two people who seem destined to be together are torn apart by fear and violence."
Wall said: "Open Water is an astonishing debut: intensely moving, tender and true. Caleb is a lyrical, soulful writer whose words are sure to resonate with thousands of readers. I’m thrilled to be bringing him to the Viking list."
Azumah Nelson is a 25-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His writing has been published in Litro and he was recently shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice prize.
He said: "I’m incredibly excited for Open Water to find a home at Viking, joining a wonderful list of writers I admire. I’m looking forward to working with Isabel to bring this novel into the world."
Adams added: "The response to Caleb’s novel has been so exciting, and we are delighted to be working with Isabel and Viking. Having witnessed Caleb’s hard work on Open Water over the past six months, it is a pleasure to see his writing connect with so many. I can’t wait for readers to share this story, too."