Celebrating the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most important awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, one of the most influential, internationally renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, and invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.
The full longlist for 2023 is:
– Limberlost byRobbie Arnott (Atlantic Books) – novel (Australia)
– Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press) – novel (Ireland)
– God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – short story collection (Nigeria)
– Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
– Phantom Gang by Ciarán O’Rourke (The Irish Pages Press) – poetry collection (Ireland)
– Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor (Oneworld) – novel (Kenya)
– Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu (Canongate Books) – novel (UK)
– I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books) – novel (UK)
– Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing) – short story collection (UK)
– Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection (Somalia-UK)
– Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
– No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib (Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin) – novel (Lebanon)
Worth £20,000, the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.
American poet, novelist and essayist Patricia Lockwood received the award in 2022 for her inventive debut novel, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing). Chair of the 2022 Judges, Namita Gokhale, said: “No One Is Talking About This is a vital reflection on online culture today. A deeply timely winner, Patricia Lockwood is the voice of a generation of new writers who grew up under the constant pressures of real-time news and social media.”
The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 March followed by the Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May.
In I’m A Fan a single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal heteronormative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed. In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.
Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV who was born and raised in North West London. She is part of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE collective, has been published in 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Rough Trade Books) and a poetry collection of the same name (FEM Press). In 2022 she was chosen as one of the Observer’s Top 10 best debut novelists. I’m a Fan is her first book.Follow her on Twitter @Sheena_Patel_
My thoughts: I’m from the same part of North West London as the author and the narrator of this book, so every now and then as a place was mentioned I’d get a little surprise jolt of nostalgia. But otherwise the narrator and I are nothing alike. I couldn’t tell if this was purely fictional, autofiction or a mix of the two.
The obsession with “the man I want to be with” and his many girlfriends, especially the one she’s stalking on Instagram, the fact that he’s serially unfaithful to his wife, the way he toys with the narrator’s feelings and she never seems willing to just get away from him, the boyfriend she clearly doesn’t love anymore. All of it left me cold, we would not be friends.
The stream of consciousness style was interesting, the way it felt like the inner monologue of a young woman’s mind, her constant sense of being unbalanced, she knows none of this behaviour is healthy but yet can’t seem to break out of the cycle.
We all use social media to look at lives we want to live – the comparison, the shameless “where is that from?” and the copycatting of bits of other lives we can afford and hope will somehow make us more like them. This I could totally relate to. But her stalking of the other other woman, that I found a bit much.
As a story of obsession, emotional self harm this totally hits the mark. You’re not a fan, you’re obsessed and it needs to stop. Though I am now a fan of Sheena Patel, can’t wait to see what she writes next.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.