Writers Of African Descent Shortlisted For UK Prize For First-time Novelists

by Yinka Akanbi

For the first time in the 13-year history of the Desmond Elliot Prize, all the writers on its 2020 shortlist are of African descent.

Nigeria’s Abi Dare (The Girl With The Louding Voice), Okechukwu Nzelu (The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney) and Derek Owusu (That Reminds Me) are on this year’s shortlist. Nzelu and Owusu have Nigerian and Ghanaian roots, respectively.

“These three outstanding debuts approach narrative form in very different and exhilarating prose, each mining the possibilities of language to give exceptional voice to unforgettable characters. From Ghanaian story myths to Nigerian patriarchy; from the violence within Cambridge’s ivory towers to the bonds of London’s streets and the longed-for liberation of a night out in Manchester’s gay village, each writer pays careful attention to the nuances of speech between people of different generations, cultures and class and succeeds in making worlds we do not want to leave. These novels are striking, intimate studies of bodies in flux and transit through our linked histories; they show us how to seek new families and ways of being whole. They stand as powerful testimonials to individual and collective survival against institutional violence, and the current deprivations of our world,” said Chair of the Prize’s panel of judges, Preti Taneja.

The Prize is annually awarded to a full-length novel by a debut author, written in English and published in the United Kingdom. The prize is named in honour of the distinguished late publisher and literary agent, Desmond Elliott.

The Desmond Elliot Prize has been described as the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists.

The winner will be announced in July and will receive a cash reward of £10,000.

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