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The Dylan Thomas Shortlist 2024

By Maria Sadek, Clara Garnier-Barsanti and Grace Briggs-Jones


The Dylan Thomas prize is an annual award that celebrates young writers displaying international literary excellence. The prize has been running since 2006 and continues to spotlight incredible young authors, nurturing raw creative talent across the world. The prize is awarded to the best literary work published in the English language by an author under thirty-nine and includes many forms of literature including poetry, novels, and dramas. Given that the prize is named after famed Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas, who tragically died at only thirty-nine-years-old, the award hopes to echo Thomas’ influence and international acclaim by supporting and nurturing the writers of today.


The Shortlist


The first book on the shortlist is A Spell of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo, a rich and spirited novel that depicts the experience of two different families in modern Nigeria. Adebayo explores important themes such as wealth, greed, power, obsession and political corruption through her juxtaposition between a wealthy family’s daughter and an orphan boy just trying to get by. The novel has already received critical acclaim as it was longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, and makes a worthy addition to the Dylan Thomas shortlist.


Up next is Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson. The novel moves across both London and Ghana as it explores a relationship between a boy and his father, drawing on sacrifice, shame and a search for meaning to create a moving and spell-binding read. Nelson is also the acclaimed author of Open Water, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2021. Having achieved critical acclaim for both his first novel and his second, Nelson demonstrates his raw talent as a writer and how he embodies the ideals of the Dylan Thomas prize.


Next on the list is The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore, a heart-stopping journey that takes the reader from the South of France to Paris through the heart of the Revolution. A world of tumult, upheaval and depravity awaits Blakemore’s readers as they follow Tarare, The Glutton of Lyon. It is dark. It is atmospheric. It is sometimes grotesque. But, above all, Blakemore’s writing is beautiful and well-researched. Blakemore’s debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, won the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021 and was a Waterstones Book of the Month. She is definitely someone to watch!


Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan, their second poetry collection, one that aligns with their superb debut Flèche, winner of the Costa Poetry Award in 2019. For those who had missed it, Flèche was built around their mother’s experience growing up in China during the twentieth century, a life marked by drastic political changes and chaos. In Bright Fear, Mary Jean Chan, who was born in Hong-Kong, explores a more personal and intimate chaos, one that touches queerness, familial relations (the tensions and reconciliations that can occur), languages grey zones and the romanticisation of the “elsewhere.” Soft, tender, and extraordinarily sharp, these pieces are those you want to read again, or offer to someone who may need their company.


The shortlist continues with Biography of X, described as “a major novel, and a notably audacious one” by Dwight Garner, a critic at The New York Times. With an impressive history of shortlistings; being named as one of the Ten Best Books of 2023 by Time, winner of the 2023 Brooklyn Library Prize, and longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award among others, Catherine Lacey’s novel explores the hidden tortuous mechanisms of a famous artist. Between fiction and non-fiction, the death of X forces her widow, CM, to face the truth of her ignorance regarding the identity of her wife. Along with real photographs, her quest will cross times, continents and emotions to understand X’s deepest secrets.

Another on the list is Local Fires by Joshua Jones, a queer, autistic writer and artist from Llanelli in South Wales. Local Fires is a sardonic, melancholic and joyful series of interconnected tales that may be set in a small town but reach far beyond. The book touches on gender, sexuality, toxic masculinity and neurodivergence and really lights a fire in which Jones’ voice shines through. He is currently working with the British Council to connect Welsh and Vietnamese queer writers and, if you enjoy his debut piece of fiction, be sure to read his poetry that has been published in Poetry Wales.


Namita Gokhale, Chair of Judges, said: “The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize has an important role to play in recognising, supporting and nurturing young writers across a rich diversity of locations and genres. The 2024 shortlist has authors from the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Ghana, and it has been a truly rewarding adventure to immersively read through this creative spectrum of voices.”



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