British-Ghanaian writer wins Dylan Thomas Prize

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A novel about a son-father relationship set between London and Ghana has won its author the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize.

British-Ghanaian author Caleb Azumah Nelson said he was in a "state of shock" after winning the prize for his novel Small Worlds.

The 30-year-old from south east London was announced as the winner of the £20,000 award at Swansea's Taliesin Arts Centre on Thursday night.

The prize is given annually to the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.

Launched in 2006, it is named after Swansea-born poet Dylan Thomas who was 39 when he died in New York in 1953.

Caleb reading on stage
The six shortlisted writers each read extracts from their works [BBC]

Speaking after being handed the award, Caleb said: "I felt strangely calm before the show and now I'm just really in a total state of shock."

He added: "It's really exciting to be here."

He said the first person he was going to call was his mother.

Among the shortlisted writers was Joshua Jones for his work Local Fires, a collection of short stories inspired by real people and events in his home town of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire.

He said he was relieved the wait was over.

"There's been anxiety for the last couple of weeks, it's the biggest thing that's happened to me in terms of my writing career and it is just incredible to be part of the experience," he said.

Joshua at the event
Joshua made the final six for his collection of short stories Local Fires [BBC]

Chair of 2024 judges Namita Gokhale described the winning work Small Worlds - the author's second novel - as viscerally moving and heartfelt with deeply realised characters.

The full shortlist for the 2024 prize was:

  • A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò – novel (Nigeria)

  • Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson – novel (UK/Ghana)

  • The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore – novel (England)

  • Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan – poetry collection (Hong Kong)

  • Local Fires by Joshua Jones – short story collection (Wales)

  • Biography of X by Catherine Lacey – novel (US)