Granta reveals list of Britain's brightest writers

The authors on the 2013 Granta List The novelists on the 2013 Granta List gathered in London for the announcement

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A list of Britain's 20 brightest young writers has been unveiled by literary magazine Granta.

The once-a-decade list often proves controversial, but has a strong track record of elevating relatively unknown novelists into the literary spotlight.

Two authors named in 2013 - Zadie Smith and Adam Thirlwell - appeared on the previous Granta Best of Young British Novelists list in 2003.

The list was announced at the British Council in London on Monday night.

The 2013 Granta list is notable for its multicultural mix, and for being the first to feature a majority of female writers. It features six debut novelists.

The names are: Naomi Alderman, Tahmima Anam, Ned Beauman, Jenni Fagan, Adam Foulds, Xiaolu Guo, Sarah Hall, Steven Hall, Joanna Kavenna, Benjamin Markovits, Nadifa Mohamed, Helen Oyeyemi, Ross Raisin, Sunjeev Sahota, Taiye Selasi, Kamila Shamsie, Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Adam Thirlwell and Evie Wyld.

GRANTA BEST OF YOUNG BRITISH NOVELISTS 2013

  • Naomi Alderman
  • Tahmima Anam
  • Ned Beauman
  • Jenni Fagan
  • Adam Foulds
  • Xiaolu Guo
  • Sarah Hall
  • Steven Hall
  • Joanna Kavenna
  • Benjamin Markovits
  • Nadifa Mohamed
  • Helen Oyeyemi
  • Ross Raisin
  • Sunjeev Sahota
  • Taiye Selasi
  • Kamila Shamsie
  • Zadie Smith
  • David Szalay
  • Adam Thirlwell
  • Evie Wyld

"From satirists to humorists to sweeping epic-spinners, these writers have a command of language and their form which is simply astonishing. They show that the novel has a bold, brilliant future in Britain," said Granta editor John Freeman.

Beauman, 27, the youngest on the list, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year with his second novel The Teleportation Accident.

Several others on the list also have a Man Booker track record. Adam Foulds' The Quickening Maze was shortlisted in 2009, while Sarah Hall's The Electric Michelangelo was shortlisted in 2004 and How to Paint a Dead Man was longlisted in 2009.

Zadie Smith's On Beauty was shortlisted in 2005, and went on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction the following year.

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for Foyles, said the Granta list gave a "fascinating snapshot" of the state of British literary fiction.

"It's the first time that female writers have formed a majority, which perhaps reflects the fact that women's greater interest in reading fiction has inevitably led to more of them writing it," he said.

"A comparison with the first list in 1983 also reflects how multicultural Britain has become in the intervening decades, with writers from a far wider range of ethnic backgrounds making their mark.

"The British publishing industry is often criticised for being parochial, middle-class, white or London-centric and while this may have been true in the past, I think this list shows how much our horizons have broadened."

Author Nadifa Mohamed tells BBC News why the Granta list is so important.

Some authors on the list illustrate how publishing and technology has changed since the 2003 list. As well as her novels, Naomi Alderman has co-created Zombies, Run! - a fitness game and audio app for smartphones. She was also the lead writer on Bafta-shortlisted alternate reality game Perplex City.

Start Quote

Publishing has changed so much in the last couple of decades that you do need a bit of a push with your first book.”

End Quote Evie Wyld

The first-time novelists on the 2013 list include Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts, and also lead writer on recently-released first person shooter video game Crysis 3.

Other debut novelists are Jenni Fagan (The Panopticon) Nadifa Mohamed (Black Mamba Boy), Sunjeev Sahota (Ours are the Streets), Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go - published last month), and Evie Wyld (After the Fire, A Still Small Voice).

Wyld not only writes books but sells them too, running a small independent bookshop called Review, in Peckham, south-east London.

She told the BBC: "Publishing has changed so much in the last couple of decades that you do need a bit of a push with your first book. I certainly wouldn't have got where I am today without other lists and prizes.

On the difficulties faced by writers in 2013, she said: "It's a case of don't give up your day job... I certainly don't do it for the money. Anyone who gets into thinking it's a way to make easy cash is deluded."

Zadie Smith and Adam Thirlwell Zadie Smith and Adam Thirlwell were also on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list in 2003

Granta's first list of 20 writers aged under 40 was published in 1983.

Many of the class of '83 have become household names, such as Martin Amis, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Pat Barker, Ian McEwan and Rose Tremain.

The 1993 list included Iain Banks, Louis de Bernieres, Alan Hollinghurst, Hanif Kureishi, Ben Okri, Will Self and Jeanette Winterson.

As well as Zadie Smith and Adam Thirlwell, the Granta list in 2003 included Brick Lane author Monica Ali, Rachel Cusk, AL Kennedy, David Mitchell, and Sarah Waters.

Unlike most literary prizes, inclusion on the Granta list is not pegged to a particular book and focuses on existing and emerging talents.

The judges for 2013 were Granta editor John Freeman, deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, author Romesh Gunesekera, Stuart Kelly, literary editor of Scotland on Sunday, author and comedian AL Kennedy, Granta publisher Sigrid Rausing and Gaby Wood, head of books at the Telegraph.

Kennedy appeared on the Granta Best of Young British Novelist list in 1993 and again in 2003.

BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime will air readings of five short stories from the Granta authors this week.

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