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Nadifa Mohamed novel about Cardiff man wrongfully convicted of murder wins Wales Book of the Year award

29 Jul 2022 9 minute read
The winner of the English language Wales Book of the Year prize

A novel by Nadifa Mohamed about a Cardiff man wrongfully convicted of murder has won the 2022 English language Wales Book of the Year award.

The Fortune Men, the author’s third novel, is a fictionalised retelling of the story of Mahmood Mattan, a man wrongfully convicted of murder in 1950s Cardiff.

The news of this year’s winners was announced during a special broadcast of BBC Radio Wales’ Arts Show.

It was first declared that The Fortune Men was awarded the Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, then the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Award, before going on to win the overall award and the crowning title of Wales Book of the Year 2022.

For this hat-trick, Nadifa receives a total prize of £4,000 and a bespoke trophy, designed and created by the artist Angharad Pearce Jones.

Nadifa Mohamed was born in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in 1981 and moved to Britain at the age of four. Her first novel, Black Mamba Boy, won the Betty Trask Prize; it was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the PEN Open Book Award.

Her second novel, Orchard of Lost Souls, won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Prix Albert Bernard. Nadifa Mohamed was selected for the Granta Best of Young British Novelists in 2013 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The Fortune Men was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. Nadifa Mohamed lives in London.

In the novel, Mahmood Mattan is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is many things, but he is not a murderer. So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried.

He is innocent in this country where justice is served. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of returning home dwindles, and it dawns on Mahmood that he is in a fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice, and cruelty – and that the truth may not be enough to save him.


The Awards are judged by an independent panel appointed annually. Judging the English-language books this year are poet and writer Krystal Lowe, journalist and broadcaster Andy Welch, author and presenter Matt Brown, and poet and recipient of a 2020 Rising Stars Award Taylor Edmonds.

On behalf of the judging panel, Krystal Lowe said: “We want to thank every single writer who submitted their book to this award. It was not only a joy but an honour to read every one of them.

“It was incredible to see the breadth of talent and creativity living in Wales, and I look forward to following the long and fruitful careers of all the writers who submitted. We are so pleased to have selected Nadifa Mohamad’s The Fortune Men and hope that many people read this compelling novel.”

Category Winners

Celebrating books across four categories – poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and children & young people – as well as the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Award, tonight’s broadcast saw Literature Wales announce a total of six prize-winners.

The winner of the English@BangorUni Poetry Award was A Voice Coming from Then by Jeremy Dixon (Arachne Press). His second poetry collection, A Voice Coming from Then, starts from Jeremy’s teenage suicide attempt and expands to encompass themes of bullying, queerphobia, acceptance and support.

The winner of the Creative Non-Fiction Award was The Journey is Home: Notes from a Life on the Edge by John Sam Jones (Parthian). In this clear and absorbing memoir John Sam Jones tells a story of journeys and realisation, of acceptance and joy.

The winner of the Children and Young People Award was The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell (Usborne). Set on the shores of Papua New Guinea, this novel is a spell-binding adventure of friendship, forgiveness, and bravery.

‘No surprise’

The Wales Book of the Year Award has been organized by Literature Wales since 2004, and during that time some of Wales’ most famous authors have received awards alongside new, bright talents.

Leusa Llewelyn, Literature Wales’ Joint Interim CEO said: “Many congratulations to all of the category winners, everyone at Literature Wales have been enjoying and discussing the shortlisted books for months.

“A special congratulations to Nadifa for winning the hat-trick with The Fortune Men. It’s no surprise at all that she has captured the judges’ and the readers’ hearts with this powerful novel about injustice and oppression.

“The Fortune Men brings alive the multicultural docklands of our capital city in the 1950s with its sights, smells and sounds, with Cardiff becoming an intriguing character in its own right within the pages of this captivating novel.”

Mori by Ffion Dafis

‘Takes chances’

The Welsh-language Wales Book of the Year Award 2022 was awarded last week to the “masterpiece” Mori by Ffion Dafis.

Mori which also won the Welsh @ Bangor University Fiction Award, was announced as the winner by Literature Wales on Radio Cymru.

A powerful contemporary story, Mori is the first novel from the actress and presenter Ffion Dafis following the success of Syllu ar Walia (Y Lolfa, 2017). The novel follows Morfudd and her obsession with a girl who sends a request to be her friend on social media.

Her relationship with the girl forces Morfudd to face the secrets of her past and embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance which takes her to very dark places.

Ffion Dafis is originally from Bangor, and is a familiar name in the arts sector in Wales. She is known for playing the role of Llinos in the television series Amdani and Rhiannon in Byw Celwydd on S4C.

She played the part of Lady Macbeth in Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s ground-breaking production of Shakespeare’s play at Caerphilly Castle in 2017.

This is the fourth year running that a novel has been named the Welsh-language Wales Book of the Year. Mori follows tu ôl i’r awyr by Megan Angharad Hunter, Babel by Ifan Morgan Jones, and Llyfr Glas Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros in the chain of novels to receive the coveted title. These four books are published by Y Lolfa.

Ffion receives a cash prize of £4,000, as well as a trophy designed and created by the artist Angharad Pearce Jones.

On behalf of the Panel, Mirain Iwerydd said: “Reading Mori was like creeping into the recesses of the main character’s mind and experiencing all that transpired through her eyes. Writing a character like Mori is no mean feat. She is complicated, and occasionally very dark thoughts cross her mind.

“The novel takes chances and explores themes and subjects which haven’t been discussed in Welsh-language literature in such a manner before.

“I believe that Mori’s character alone is a masterpiece, but combine this with the careful weaving of humorous and skilled narrative created by Ffion Dafis – well, that’s how you win Wales Book of the Year! Completely deserved. Congratulations Ffion.”

This sentiment was echoed by judge Melanie Owen, who added: “Mori is an exceptional piece. Us three judges have very different tastes when it comes to literature, but Mori appealed to everyone. Ffion’s talent as a writer cannot be disputed – I look forward intently to read whatever she writes next.”


It was also announced that the collection Y Pump topped the Golwg360 Barn y Bobl (people’s choice) poll.

The ten writers who penned the 5-novel collection will share the accolade and prize: Elgan Rhys and Tomos Jones (Tim), Mared Roberts and Ceri-Anne Gatehouse (Tami), Marged Elen Wiliam and Mahum Umer (Aniq), Iestyn Tyne and Leo Drayton (Robyn), Megan Angharad Hunter and Maisie Awen (Cat)*.

The main Awards were judged by an independent panel appointed annually. Judging the Welsh-language books this year are broadcaster Mirain Iwerydd, presenter of BBC Radio Cymru 2’s Sunday Breakfast Show; presenter and columnist Melanie Owen; the academic, editor and author of the academic journal, Llên Cymru, Siwan Rosser; and the director, poet and writer Gwion Hallam **. Gwion Hallam, however, was not part of the discussions about the fiction category or the main prize due to a conflict of interest.

The Wales Book of the Year Award has been organized by Literature Wales since 2004, and during that time some of Wales’ most famous authors have received awards alongside new, bright talents.

Leusa Llewelyn, Literature Wales’ Joint Interim CEO said: “Congratulations to Ffion Dafis for winning the Wales Book of the Year Award with Mori, a novel which has given us a Blodeuwedd-esque antiheroine to marvel at and fear all at once. It’s wonderful to see a new novelist succeed this year, and I hope this will inspire other emerging writers across Wales to put pen to paper.

“Congratulations to the Y Pump writers and co-writers, an ambitious and pioneering project which platforms new and future writers and their own unique stories.

“The series sets the tone to transform our literary landscape, helps underrepresented writers use their voice, and does all of this with bells and whistles.

“We’re extremely lucky to have writers like these creating work in Welsh, and it’s no surprise that they’ve captured the popular vote and won the Golwg360 Barn y Bobl award.”

Category Winners

Last week, Literature Wales announced which books have topped the Welsh-language categories as well as the overall Award winner, all over a series of broadcasts on BBC Radio Cymru.

  • Welsh@BangorUniversity Fiction Award: Mori by Ffion Dafis (Y Lolfa)
  • Poetry Award: merch y llyn by Grug Muse (Cyhoeddiadau’r Stamp)
  • Creative Non-Fiction Award: Paid â Bod Ofn by Non Parry (Y Lolfa)
  • Children and Young People Award: Y Pump co-written by several writers (Y Lolfa)
  • Golwg360 Barn y Bobl (people’s choice) Award: Y Pump Y Pump co-written by several writers (Y Lolfa)

To find out more about Wales Book of The Year, visit here.

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