The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is proud to announce its 2024 shortlist.

A Spell of Good Things - Ayobami Adebayo

A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (Canongate Books)
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, the Women's Prize-shortlisted author of Stay With Me, unveils a dazzling story of modern Nigeria and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption.

Eniola is tall for his age, a boy who looks like a man. His father has lost his job, so Eniola spends his days running errands for the local tailor, collecting newspapers and begging, dreaming of a big future.

Wuraola is a golden girl, the perfect child of a wealthy family. Now an exhausted young doctor in her first year of practice, she is beloved by Kunle, the volatile son of family friends.

When a local politician takes an interest in Eniola and sudden violence shatters a family party, Wuraola and Eniola's lives become intertwined. In this breathtaking novel, Ayòbámi Adébáyò shines her light on Nigeria, on the gaping divide between the haves and the have-nots, and the shared humanity that lives in between.

Ayobami Adebayo photo by Emmanuel Iduma

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, A Spell of Good Things (Canongate Books)
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her debut novel, Stay With Me, won the 9mobile Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Wellcome Book Prize and the Kwani? Manuscript Prize. It has been translated into twenty languages and the French translation was awarded the Prix Les Afriques. Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award, Stay With Me was a New York TimesGuardianChicago Tribune and NPR Best Book of the Year. Ayòbámi Adébàyò splits her time between Norwich and Lagos.

X: @ayobamiadebayo  |  Instagram: @ayobamidebayo
[Photo credit: Emmanuel Iduma]

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking, Penguin Random House)

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking, Penguin Random House UK)
Dancing is the one thing that can solve Stephen's problems.

At Church with his family, the shimmer of Black hands raised in praise. With his band, making music speaking not just to their hardships, but their joys. Grooving with his best friend, so close their heads might touch. Dancing alone to his father's records, uncovering parts of a man he has never truly known. His youth, shame and sacrifice.

Stephen has only ever known himself in song. But what becomes of him when the music fades?

Set over the course of three summers, from South London to Ghana and back again, SMALL WORLDS is a novel about the worlds we build for ourselves. The worlds we live, dance and love within.

Caleb Azumah Nelson

Caleb Azumah Nelson, Small Worlds (Viking, Penguin Random House)
Caleb Azumah Nelson is a British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His first novel, OPEN WATER, won the Costa First Novel Award and Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards, and was a number-one Times bestseller. It was also shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Waterstones Book of the Year, and longlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. His second novel, SMALL WORLDS was a Sunday Times Bestseller and was shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. He was selected as a National Book Foundation '5 under 35' honoree by Brit Bennett.

X: @CalebANelson  |  Instagram: @caleb_anelson

The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)

The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)
Sister Perpetue is not to move. She is not to fall asleep. She is to sit, keeping guard over the patient's room. She has heard the stories of his hunger, which defy belief: that he has eaten all manner of creatures and objects. A child even, if the rumours are to be believed. But it is hard to believe that this slender, frail man is the one they once called The Great Tarare, The Glutton of Lyon.

Before, he was just Tarare. Well-meaning and hopelessly curious, born into a world of brawling and sweet cider, to a bereaved mother and a life of slender means. The 18th Century is drawing to a close, unrest grips the heart of France and life in the village is soon shaken. When a sudden act of violence sees Tarare cast out and left for dead, his ferocious appetite is ignited, and it's not long before his extraordinary abilities to eat make him a marvel throughout the land.

Following Tarare as he travels from the South of France to Paris and beyond, through the heart of the Revolution, The Glutton is an electric, heart-stopping journey into a world of tumult, upheaval and depravity, wherein the hunger of one peasant is matched only by the insatiable demands of the people of France.

A.K. Blakemore photo by Alice Zoo

A.K. Blakemore, The Glutton (Granta)
A. K. Blakemore's debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, won the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, and was a Waterstones Book of the Month. She is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Humbert Summer and Fondue, which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection, and has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo. Her poetry and prose has appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry, the Poetry Review and the White Review, among other publications.

X: @akblakemore  |  Instagram: @barbiedreamhearse
[Photo credit: Alice Zoo

Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)

Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
Following their award-winning debut, Flèche (2019), comes Mary Jean Chan’s gleaming second collection: Bright Fear. Through poems which engage fearlessly with intertwined themes of identity, multilingualism and postcolonial legacy, Chan’s latest work explores a family’s evolving dynamics, as well as microaggressions stemming from queerphobia and anti-Asian racism that accompanied the Covid pandemic.

Yet Bright Fear remains deeply attuned to moments of beauty, tenderness and grace. It asks how we might find a home within our own bodies, in places both distant and near, and in the ‘constructed space’ of the poem. The contemplative central sequence, Ars Poetica, traces the radically healing and transformative role of poetry during the poet’s teenage and adult years, culminating in a polyphonic reconciliation of tongues. Throughout, Chan offers us new and galvanising ways to ‘withstand the quotidian tug- / of-war between terror and love’.

‘[Chan] is one of those rare poets who leave you looking up with a sense that you can engage even the smallest part of the world around you with a much greater intensity.’ PN Review

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan, Bright Fear (Faber & Faber)
Mary Jean Chan is the author of Flèche (Faber & Faber, 2019), which won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. Bright Fear, Chan's second book, was shortlisted for the 2023 Forward Prize for Best Collection and is currently shortlisted for the Writers' Prize. In 2022, Chan co-edited the acclaimed anthology 100 Queer Poems with Andrew McMillan. A recent judge for the 2023 Booker Prize, Chan is the 2023-24 Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow at the University of Cambridge.

X: @maryjean_chan  |  Instagram: @maryjeanchan

Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Parthian Books)

Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Parthian Books)
Local Fires sees debut writer Joshua Jones turn his acute focus to his birthplace of Llanelli, South Wales. Sardonic and melancholic, joyful and grieving, these multifaceted stories may be set in a small town, but they have reach far beyond their locality. From the inertia of living in an ex-industrial working-class area, to gender, sexuality, toxic masculinity and neurodivergence, Jones has crafted a collection versatile in theme and observation, as the misadventures of the town’s inhabitants threaten to spill over into an incendiary finale.

In this stunning series of interconnected tales, fires both literal and metaphorical, local and all-encompassing, blaze together to herald the emergence of a singular new Welsh literary voice.

Joshua Jones (c) Nik Roche

Joshua Jones, Local Fires (Parthian Books)
Joshua Jones (he/him) is a queer, autistic writer and artist from Llanelli, South Wales. He co-founded Dyddiau Du, a NeuroQueer art and literature space in Cardiff. His fiction and poetry have been published by Poetry Wales, Broken Sleep Books, Gutter and others. He is a Literature Wales Emerging Writer for 2023, and is currently working with the British Council to connect Welsh and Vietnamese queer writers. Local Fires is his first publication of fiction.

X: @nothumanhead  |  Instagram: @joshuajoneswrites
[Photo credit: Nik Roche]

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Granta)

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Granta)
When X – an iconoclastic artist, writer and polarizing shape-shifter – dies suddenly, her widow, wild with grief, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognised as a crucial creative force of her era, she kept a tight grip on her life story. Not even CM, her wife, knew where X had been born, and in her quest to find out, she opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, betrayals and destruction. All the while she immerses herself in the history of the Southern Territory, a fascist theocracy that split from the rest of the country after World War II, as it is finally, in the present day, forced into an uneasy reunification.

A masterfully constructed, counter-factual literary adventure, complete with original images assembled by X’s widow, Biography of X follows a grieving wife seeking to understand the woman who enthralled her. CM traces X’s peripatetic trajectory over decades, from Europe to the ruins of America’s divided territories, and through her collaborations and feuds with everyone from David Bowie and Tom Waits to Susan Sontag and Kathy Acker. And when she finally understands the scope of X’s defining artistic project, CM realises her wife’s deceptions were far crueller than she imagined.

Pulsing with suspense and intellect, Biography of X is a roaring epic that plumbs the depths of grief, art and love, and that introduces an unforgettable character who shows us the fallibility of the stories we craft for ourselves.

Catherine Lacey photo by Willy Somma

Catherine Lacey, Biography of X (Granta)
Catherine Lacey is the author of the novels Nobody Is Ever Missing, The Answers and Pew, and the short story collection Certain American States. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. She has been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and was named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, The Believer and elsewhere. Born in Mississippi, Catherine is currently a fellow at the Dorothy B & Lewis Cullman Center for writers and scholars at the New York Public Library, and is otherwise based in Mexico City.

X: @_catherinelacey  |  Instagram: catherinelacey_
[Photo credit: Willy Somma]

What the judges say

Julia Wheeler on A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò:
“A Spell of Good Things’ by Ayòbámi Adébáyò takes us deep into the layers of Nigeria’s divided society to create a compelling and at times heartbreaking novel.  Weaving social mores and destructive politics, the personal and the national are entwined to leave skilfully drawn characters wondering, what next?”

Tice Cin on Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson:
“In this deeply loving and rhythmically moving novel, we meet Stephen and his own small worlds, those lives that are ever-present in our orbiting. Paying close attention to a loneliness that comes with the no man's land of being hurtled from one's safe place, Azumah Nelson conveys elsewhereness as a solace, resting into the hand outreached that brings us home, the afterblooms of our grief, and the music of community.”

Jon Gower on The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore:
“This wildly inventive but deeply well-researched novel is distinguished by vivid, poetic prose, telling the story of Tarare, a young man cursed with an unsatiable hunger. Its superbly rendered cast of characters move through a violently changing France and a world fully out of kilter. Glutton, utterly satisfying, leaves the reader hungry for more.”

Tice Cin on Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan:
“Written with a quiet intimacy, Mary Jean Chan's second collection hums by your ear with gentle, inviting and formally inventive poetry. In a world freighted with exclusion, from the relentless snarls of colonisation to queerphobia, Bright Fear opens the door into a process of building a life for yourself, still. With lucid verse enhanced through their multilingual play, Chan tends to a garden of self-embrace and chosen community, lingering with the fullness of queer actualisation, the breath in a parent's pause, and the roots of tender soothing.”

Namita Gokhale on Local Fires by Joshua Jones:
“Local Fires by Joshua Jones is set in his hometown of Llanelli in West Wales. This debut collection of short fiction evokes the inertia, stagnation, and vanished innocence of a post-industrial landscape. It ruminates upon toxic masculinity and generational despair , presents comic to tragic cameos of gender and sexual identity, and also a deep window to neurodivergence. A portrait of place and community that is vital , authentic and rooted.”

Seán Hewitt on Biography of X by Catherine Lacey:
“Biography of X, in its exploration of art, relationships, and power, unpicks the stories we tell about our own lives and the lives of others, and asks what happens when we have to re-write those stories in order to go on living. A deeply-imagined, ambitious and beautiful novel that manages to pull off a formal high-wire act with dazzling skill.”