Shortlist revealed for Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2024

The shortlist for the world’s largest and most prestigious literary prize for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – has been revealed today, featuring six extraordinary, emerging voices whose writing plays with formal inventiveness to explore the timeless themes of grief, identity and family.

Comprising of four novels, one short story collection and one poetry collection – with five titles belonging to independent publishers – this year’s international shortlist is:

  • A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate Books) – novel (Nigeria)
  • Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking, Penguin Random House UK) – novel (UK/Ghana)
  • The Glutton by K. Blakemore (Granta) – novel (England, UK)
  • Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber) – poetry collection (Hong Kong)
  • Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Parthian Books) – short story collection (Wales, UK)
  • Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel (US)


Worth £20,000, this global accolade recognises exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under, celebrating the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. The prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today, nurture the talents of tomorrow, and celebrate international literary excellence.


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.”


The only debut on this year’s shortlist is the astonishing new Welsh talent Joshua Jones, who is in the running for his highly acclaimed short story collection Local Fires – a stunning series of multifaceted stories inspired by real people and real events that took place in his hometown of Llanelli, South Wales.

The sole poet in contention this year is Mary Jean Chan – who was previously shortlisted for the Prize with their debut Fleche in 2020 – and is now recognised for the collection Bright Fear, which fearlessly explores themes of identity, multilingualism and postcolonial legacy.

Three of the four novelists have also gained their second nomination for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize: British-Ghanaian author Caleb Azumah Nelson is in contention for his second novel, Small Worlds, in which he travels from South London to Ghana and back again over the course of three summers to tell an intimate father-son story exploring the worlds we build for ourselves; Nigerian novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò is shortlisted for her dazzling story of modern Nigeria, A Spell of Good Things, and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption; and US author Catherine Lacey is celebrated for the genre-bending Biography of X, a roaring epic and ambitious novel chronicling the life, times and secrets of a notorious artist.

Completing the shortlist is British novelist A.K. Blakemore, recognised for her darkly exuberant novel The Glutton, which – set to the backdrop of Revolutionary France – is based on the true story of a peasant turned freakshow attraction.


The 2024 shortlist was selected by a judging panel chaired by writer and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale, alongside author and lecturer in Creative Writing at Swansea University, Jon Gower, winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2022 and Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Seán Hewitt, former BBC Gulf Correspondent and author of Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai, Julia Wheeler, and interdisciplinary artist and author of Keeping the House, Tice Cin.


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 Wakes. 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.”


The winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2024 will be revealed at a ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 16 May, following International Dylan Thomas Day on Tuesday 14 May.

Previous winners include Arinze Ifeakandu, Patricia Lockwood, Max Porter, Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, and Kayo Chingonyi.