rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Getahead » Britain's 20 best young novelists

Britain's 20 best young novelists

Last updated on: April 18, 2013 23:20 IST

Britain's 20 best young novelists

     Next

Next

Literary magazine Granta honours the best once in a decade.

It is a list that honours the best British novelists below 40 who show the potential to become some of the greatest names in literature.

First put out in 1983, it included the likes of Pat Barker, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and our very own Salman Rushdie.

Now, Granta has released its latest once-in-a-decade list of young British novelists to watch out for. For the first time, it features more women than men.

Barring Zadie Smith and Adam Thirlwell, who also featured in 2003, the 2013 list features new names that Granta editors will be following keenly in the decade to come.

The Best of Young British Novelists is in its fourth edition, after Granta's founder-editor Bill Buford first decided to honour 20 young authors with a mention 30 years ago.

In 2003, the list triggered a controversy because two of the novelists -- Monica Ali and Adam Thirlwell -- were at the time still unpublished authors and their books were read in manuscript form.

The 2013 list includes only published authors and has an Indian connection in Sunjeev Sahota, author of the 2011 novel Ours Are The Streets.

In the following pages, we introduce you to all 20 writers who made the cut in 2013.


Image: (Clockwise from top left) Ross Raisin, Tahmima Anam, Taiye Selasi, Evie Wyld and Sunjeev Sahota are among the 20 in the list


     Next

Naomi Alderman

Prev     Next
Prev

Next
Born: 1974

Debut novel: Disobedience (2006)

When she isn't writing novels, Naomi Alderman creates computer games and best-selling fitness apps such as Zombies, Run!

The reason she is on this list is because she is the author of three acclaimed novels -- Disobedience (2006), The Lessons 2010) and The Liars' Gospel (2012) -- and has won several awards for them.

She won the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers, was named The Sunday Times's Young Writer of the Year as well as one of Waterstones' 25 Writers for the Future.

In between all of this, she also finds time to teach creative writing at the Bath Spa University and be mentored by the great Margaret Atwood as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative.

Alderman is currently working on her fourth novel.

Image: Naomi Alderman
Photographs: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Prev     Next

Tahmima Anam

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1975

Debut novel: A Golden Age (2007)

Tahmima Anam was born in Dhaka but raised in Paris, New York City and Bangkok, thanks to her father's job with UNICEF.

Her doctoral thesis in anthropology looked at post-Independence Bangladesh and the effects of the War of Liberation.

Seeking inspiration from her parents who were freedom fighters, Anam set the first of her three novels against the backdrop of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Thus began the Bengal Trilogy -- a grand project that chronicles the lives of three generations of a family from the time of the Bangladesh War of Independence to the present day.

The first, A Golden Age (2007), won her the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book while the second part, The Good Muslim, had been nominated for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize longlist.

Shipbreaker, the final title in the trilogy, will be published in 2014.


Image: Tahmima Anam
Photographs: Courtesy Tahmima.com

Prev     Next

Ned Beauman

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1985

Debut novel: Boxer, Beetle (2010)

Twenty-eight-year-old Ned Beauman is the youngest author on the Granta list.

Beauman made his debut with his 2010 novel Boxer, Beetle, which won him the Goldberg Prize for Outstanding Debut Fiction and the Writers' Guild Award for Best Fiction Book.

His second novel The Teleportation Accident (2012) has been described by NPR as a 'sci-fi-noir-comedy mashup' written in a 'prose so odd and marvellous that every few pages I had to stop and reread a passage'.

The Teleportation Accident was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize alongside Jeet Thayil's Nacropolis last year.

Ned Beauman is currently working on his third novel, Glow, set to be published in 2014.


Image: Ned Beauman
Photographs: Courtesy Nedbeauman.co.uk

Prev     Next

Jenni Fagan

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1977

Debut novel: The Panopticon (2012)

Of all the authors on the list, Jenni Fagan's life story is probably the most compelling.

With no immediate family to speak of, she spent most of her life in children's residential homes.

She was adopted twice, but neither arrangement worked out. By the time she was 12, Fagan had been moved across 20 different facilities.

She grew up in a trailer park, devouring every single book in a library van that stopped by once a week and learning to read long before she attended school.

Working shifts from either 6 am to 2 pm or 2 pm to 11 pm at Waverley Station, she flipped burgers before going on to study film and video when she was 18.

When Fagan didn't get a playwriting job at the Paines Plough theatre company in London, she realised she had to go back to formal education. She was 25.

After attending night classes to earn her open learning certificate, she bagged an award that allowed her to attend a creative writing course that she topped. She won a further scholarship to Royal Holloway, University of London, for her masters.

Jenni Fagan's debut poetry collection Urchin Belle sold out on Blackheath Books and The Dead Queen of Bohemia was named 3AM Poetry Book of the Year.

Many of her poems from the two collections have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

The Panopticon, her debut novel, was published last year to much critical acclaim and tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who is full of life despite being sent to the eponymous panopticon or prison.


Image: Jenni Fagan
Photographs: Courtesy Random House, UK

Prev     Next

Adam Foulds

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1974

Debut novel: The Truth About These Strange Times (2007)

Novelist and poet Adam Foulds has so far published two novels -- The Truth About These Strange Times (2007) and The Quickening Maze (2009) -- besides a narrative poem, The Broken Word (2008).

Thirty nine-year-old Foulds has received a host of literary awards including The Sunday Times's Young Writer Of The Year in 2007, the Betty Trask Award for The Truth About These Strange Times and the Somerset Maugham Award for The Broken World. He has also been shortlisted for the 2009 Booker Prize for The Quickening Maze.

Foulds was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010.

His new novel In the Wolf's Mouth is to be published in 2014.


Image: Adam Foulds
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Prev     Next

Xiaolu Guo

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1973

Debut (English) novel: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007)

Xiaolu Guo grew up in a small fishing village in southern China where she had little or no access to books.

She went on to study at the Beijing Film Academy. Later, she taught filmmaking and wrote novels in Mandarin.

She moved to England in 2002 and started maintaining a diary that eventually became A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007).

Today, she writes fiction in Mandarin Chinese and English and makes award-winning films.

The themes of alienation and everyday tragedy find expression in her works, which include seven novels in Chinese and English as well as films such as She, A Chinese that won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2009.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007), which has been translated into 26 languages, has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction..

Guo has received the Pearl Award (UK) for Creative Excellence in 2005, was nominated for the Independent Best Foreign Fiction Prize for her first novel Village of Stone (2003) and has served as a jury member for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.


Image: Xiaolu Guo
Photographs: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Prev     Next

Sarah Hall

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1974

Debut novel: Haweswater (2002)

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for the iconic British bookseller Foyles, has handpicked Sarah Hall as the next literary superstar.

Hall, born in Cumbria in 1974, holds an MLitt in Creative Writing from St Andrews, Scotland.

Her first novel, Haweswater (2002), won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel as well as the Lakeland Book of the Year prize and the Betty Trask Award.

She has since written three other novels and published a short story collection.

Her second novel The Electric Michelangelo (2004) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Writers; the third, The Carhullan Army (2006), won her the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Lakeland Book of the Year prize, was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction and listed on Time's Best 100 Books of the Decade list.

Hall's latest novel, How To Paint A Dead Man (2009), earned her a place on the Man Booker longlist and won the Portico Prize.

She has also written The Beautiful Indifference, a collection of short stories that was published in 2011.

A Faber author, she teaches at the Faber Academy and holds creative writing classes across the UK.


Image: Sarah Hall
Photographs: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Prev     Next

Steven Hall

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1975

Debut novel: The Raw Shark Texts (2007)

Born in Derbyshire, Steven Hall has produced several plays, music videos and conceptual art pieces, besides writing short stories and one novel.

The Raw Shark Texts (2007), a fascinating tale of a man trying to preserve the memories of his dead girlfriend, has won the Borders Original Voices Award and the Somerset Maugham Award.

It has also been translated into 29 languages.

The 38-year-old author is currently working on his second novel, The End of Endings.


Image: Steven Hall
Photographs: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Prev     Next

Joanna Kavenna

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1973

Debut novel: Inglorious (2007)

Well-travelled Joanna Kavenna's first book was the critically acclaimed The Ice Museum (2005), a work of non-fiction about her travels to the far North.

It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Best Travel Book Award.

Kavenna has since written three novels, including Inglorious (2007), which won the Orange Award for New Writing and The Birth of Love (2010), which got longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Her most recent novel, Come to the Edge (2012), is a satire that has received two thumbs up from critics across publications.

Besides being named one of The Telegraph's top 20 'Writers under 40' in 2010, Kavenna has also been granted writing fellowships at St Antony's College, Oxford and St John's College, Cambridge and was recently the Writer-in-Residence at St Peter's College, Oxford.


Image: Joanna Kavenna
Photographs: A Michaelis

Prev     Next

Benjamin Markovits

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1973

Debut novel: The Syme Papers (2004)

Benjamin Markovits decided he'd had enough of professional basketball and decided to become a writer.

In the last nine years since his first novel The Syme Papers (2004) was published, Markovits has written five others -- Either Side of Winter (2005), Imposture (2007), A Quiet Adjustment (2008), Playing Days (2010) and Childish Loves (2011).

Of these, Imposture, A Quiet Adjustment and Childish Loves form a trilogy set around the great Romantic Era poet Lord Byron (Markovits studied the Romantics after giving up basketball).

Over the years, he has lived in four cities across three countries, taught high school English, been awarded a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies and won a Pushcart Prize for one of his short stories.

Now 40, the author currently lives in London with his wife and two children and teaches creative writing at the Royal Holloway, University of London.

Image: Benjamin Markovits
Photographs: Courtesy Faber UK

Prev     Next

Nadifa Mohamed

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1981

Debut novel: Black Mamba Boy (2010)

When she was five, Nadifa Mohamed's family moved to the UK from Somalia for what they hoped would be a short period of time.

But as war continued to be waged in their home country, it became evident they would be staying in London for good.

Born in Hargeisa in 1981, Mohamed went on to study history and politics at Oxford and write her first (and, so far, only) novel, Black Mamba Boy, which was published in 2010.

The critically acclaimed work won the Betty Trask Award, was shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Mohamed visited her hometown of Hargeisa, now in the new Republic of Somaliland, 21 years after she first left it.

She continues to live in London and is working on her second novel, The Orchard of Lost Souls.

Image: Nadifa Mohamed
Photographs: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Prev     Next

Helen Oyeyemi

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1984

Debut novel: The Icarus Girl (2005)

One of the youngest novelists on the list, Helen Oyeyemi is all of 28 and appears to be one of the most promising voices of the decade to come.

She published her first novel, The Icarus Girl (2005), while she was still a student.

Oyeyemi is also one of the more prolific authors among 2013's Best of Young British Novelists, having published four novels and two plays so far.

The Icarus Girl is the story of a young misfit of a girl who finds a confidante in another, rather ragged little girl who isn't quite who she seems. Drawing from Nigerian mythology and exploring the literary theme of doubles, the book put Oyeyemi on the publishers' map for good.

Soon after, she published The Opposite House (2007), drawing upon Cuban mythology. Two years later came White is for Witching. Her fourth novel, Mr Fox, was published by Picador in June 2011.

She has won the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award for White is for Witching and the 2012 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Award for Mr Fox.

Her novels have been coming out with almost clockwork precision -- with an interval of two years between each -- making Oyeyemi one of the consistently brilliant writers of the day.


Image: Helen Oyeyemi
Photographs: Courtesy Picador

Prev     Next

Ross Raisin

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1979

Debut novel: God's Own Country (2008)

Born in Silsden, West Yorkshire, 34-year-old Ross Raisin is the author of two novels and several short stories. His 2008 debut novel, God's Own Country, follows the journey of a disturbed rural adolescent, and has been compared by The Washington Post to Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.

The novel also won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, as well as the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

The Guardian also deemed Raisin 'a young writer to watch' after his first novel was out.

His second novel, Waterline, was published in 2011.

Before turning to writing, he waited on tables, was a barman and even washed dishes. The prolific writer's stories have appeared in various magazines including Granta and Esquire.

Image: Ross Raisin
Photographs: Angus Muir/Courtesy HarperCollins

Prev     Next

Sunjeev Sahota

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1981

Debut novel: Ours are the Streets (2011)

The only desi on  the list, 32-year-old Sunjeev Sahota hadn't even read a novel till he was 18. He caught the literary bug after picking up Midnight's Children from a UK airport en route to India.

After that, there was no stopping Sahota who began devouring novels to make up for lost time. Soon enough, he was working on one of his own on weekends and after work hours.

The result was the 2011 sensation Ours Are The Streets, the story of a British-Pakistani youth who becomes a suicide bomber.

His next, The Years Of The Runaways, tells the story of illegal immigrants in Sheffield.


Image: Sunjeev Sahota
Photographs: Courtesy Picador

Prev     Next

Taiye Selasi

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1979

Debut novel: Ghana Must Go (2013)

Unlike Granta's 2003 list, this year's does not include authors who haven't been published.

Thirty-four-year-old Taiye Selasi just about managed the deadline for the list as her first novel Ghana Must Go was published only a month ago.

Selasi, who is of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin, wrote the critically acclaimed short story The Sex Lives Of African Girls, which appeared in Granta in 2011 and has found supporters in Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie.

The spirited young author is also an acclaimed photographer and has lived in various cities including Rome, New York and our very own New Delhi.


Image: Taiye Selasi
Photographs: Courtesy Ms Selasi's Twitter account

Prev     Next

Kamila Shamsie

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1973

Debut novel: The City by the Sea (1998)

Author of five novels, 1973-born Kamila Shamsie is the only one on the list who is not a British citizen (she is, however, in the process of becoming one).

Only just making the cut (she is 40), Shamsie is among the more prolific writers on the list. Her first novel, The City By The Sea, was published when she was still a student at the University of Massachusetts in 1998.

The following year, she received the Prime Minister's Award for Literature in Pakistan, where she was raised and educated.

After the publication of her second novel, Salt and Saffron, in 2000, Shamsie was named one of Orange's 21 Writers of the 21st Century.

Shamsie reviews and writes columns for newspapers (The Guardian, primarily) and also sits in on the jury of several literary awards including the Orange Award for New Writers and the Guardian First Book Award.

Her latest novel, Burnt Shadows (2009), has been translated into more than 20 languages.

As daughter of famous literary journalist and editor Muneeza Shamsie and feminist writer Atia Hosain, Shamsie boasts of a rich literary lineage.

You can read her interviews here and here.

Image: Kamila Shamsie
Photographs: Suparn Verma/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Zadie Smith

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1973

Debut novel: White Teeth (2000)

An alumnus of Granta's 2003 list, it does not come as a surprise that Zadie Smith finds a mention yet again.

The talented young novelist made waves in the publishing world back in 1997, when the rights to her very first novel, White Teeth, were auctioned much before it was completed (in 2000), only on the basis of a partial manuscript.

Hamish Hamilton eventually ended up bagging the novel that was an instant bestseller and was eventually adapted for television by UK's Channel 4.

Among its many accolades, the book's most notable is its inclusion on the list of Time Magazine's 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

Smith has since written three other novels -- The Autograph Man (2002), On Beauty (2005), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year and won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006, and NW, which has been named one of the 10 best books of 2012 by The New York Times.

She has been compared to literary greats like Salman Rushdie.

The 37-year-old literary superstar -- and has also written several short stories, articles, essays and edited anthologies -- is married to novelist-poet Nick Laird.

She divides her time between New York City and London.


Image: Zadie Smith
Photographs: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Prev     Next

David Szalay

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1974

Debut novel: London and the South East (2008)

The Guardian calls David Szalay a rising star -- and a rising star he is.

Author of three critically acclaimed novels, Szalay won the 2008 Betty Trask Award at the Society of Authors' Authors Awards and was named one of the 20 best British novelists under 40 in 2010 by the Telegraph.

Szalay was born in Canada before his family moved to the UK, where he continues to reside.

Over the years, Szalay has been consistently wowing critics with his novels, among them London And The South East and The Innocent.

His most recent, Spring, released in the UK in 2011 and served to further cement his position as a promising young novelist.

The book has been described, among other things, as a 'sophisticated anti-romcom' and his articulacy as 'something to which most writers can only aspire'.

Image: David Szalay
Photographs: Courtesy Graywolf Press

Prev     Next

Adam Thirlwell

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Born: 1978

Debut novel: Politics (2003)

The only other novelist besides Zadie Smith to be re-included once more after the 2003 list, Adam Thirlwell has written two novels so far.

His first, Politics, came out in 2003; the second novel, The Escape was published n 2009 and a third one is in the works.

Besides writing novels, Thirlwell has also written an experimental book called Kapow! (2012) set in the Arab Spring, which has folded pages and print in multiple directions. It seems to represent the state of mind of its unnamed and doped-out narrator.

His other book on the art of the novel, Miss Herbert (2007), won him the Somerset Maugham Award and a pat on the back from Tom Stoppard and A S Byatt.

Thirty-five-year-old Adam Thirlwell's works have been translated into 30 languages.

Image: Adam Thirlwell
Photographs: Courtesy Macmillan

Prev     Next

Evie Wyld

Prev     More
Prev

More

Born: 1980

Debut novel: After the Fire, A Still Small Voice (2009)

Perhaps 33-year-old Evie Wyld's Twitter bio -- 'I wrote a book, I work in a shop' --  describes her best.

The 32-year-old, who grew up in New South Wales, runs an independent bookstore in London.

While still in school, Wyld flirted with the idea of becoming a painter before realising she wasn't terribly good at it .

By her own account, her first attempts at writing involved 'terrible magical realist stuff about attractive young girls having love affairs with old men with twisted spines'.

Eventually she went on to earn her BA and MA degrees, both in creative writing, which evidently seem to have done wonders for her writing talent.

"If you are a good writer and you do a creative writing degree, you are given the time to write and you are able to talk to other writers. You read widely, and through your classmates' mistakes you pick up your own more efficiently," she told Granta in an interview.

Set in Queensland, Wyld's first novel After the Fire, a Still Small Voice (2009) told the story of two men from different generations and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Betty Trask Award.

She has been listed as one of (BBC programme) The Culture Show's Best New British Novelists, and been shortlisted for both the Orange Prize for New Writers and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Her second novel All the Birds, Singing (2013) is set to be released this year and tells the story of an Australian sheep farmer working on an English hill farm.

Wyld also featured on The Daily Telegraph's list of the 20 best British authors under 40.


Image: Evie Wyld
Photographs: Courtesy Ms Wyld's Twitter account

Prev     More