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Nigerian writer scoops prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize

13 May 2023 3 minute read
Dylan Thomas Prize winner Arinze Ifeakandu and his debut collection ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’

Nigerian writer Arinze Ifeakandu has been awarded one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for his ‘exhilarating’ debut short fiction collection.

God’s Children Are Little Broken Things is a collection of nine stories which simmer with loneliness and love, and depict what it means to be gay in contemporary Nigeria.

Ifeakandu was awarded the prestigious £20,000 Prize at a ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May, with November 2023 marking seventy years since the Welsh poet’s death.

Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories, and drama.

Arinze Ifeakandu, who was born in Kano, Nigeria, joins an illustrious list of writers to have been awarded this prestigious Prize, including Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.

Establishing the twenty-eight-year-old as a vital new voice in literary fiction, his stories examine love in a society in flux.

Exhilarating collection

The judging panel, chaired by Books Editor for BBC Audio, Di Speirs, comprised Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted author, Maggie Shipstead; Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award winner, Rachel Long; former Dylan Thomas Prize shortlistee and prize-winning author, Prajwal Parajuly, and Welsh author, broadcaster and Nation.Cymru cultural editor Jon Gower.

Di Speirs, said: “We were unanimous in our praise and admiration for this exhilarating collection of nine stories. Arinze Ifeakandu’s debut shines with maturity, the writing bold, refreshing and exacting but never afraid to linger and to allow characters and situations to develop and change, so that the longer stories are almost novels in themselves.

“A kaleidoscopic reflection of queer life and love in Nigeria, the constraints, the dangers and the humanity, this is a collection that we wanted to press into many readers’ hands around the world and which left us excited to know what Arinze Ifeakandu will write next.”

At the award ceremony, judge Jon Gower said: “If someone was to ask me what judging this competition involves, I would actually have to say that it’s enrichment. We as judges have been enriched by the twelve books on the longlist and most certainly by the six books that you’ve heard from and about this evening.

“My world is larger, I’ve been presented to new worlds, and the world that I thought I knew, I’ve seen it afresh because of your words, your storytelling gifts, your command of language and of languages.”

Arinze Ifeakandu with judges Jon Gower, Prajwal Parajuly, and Trefor Ellis, representing the Dylan Thomas family. Image by Elaine Canning

Arinze Ifeakandu is an AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist, a Public Space Writing Fellow, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in A Public Space, One Story, and Guernica. God’s Children Are Little Broken Things is his first book.

The other titles shortlisted for the 2023 Prize were: Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books), Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press), I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books/Granta), Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing), and Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, Vintage).

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