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Kamila Shamsie:best young novelists

April 17 2013




LONDON: Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie and established best-seller Zadie Smith have been named to Granta magazine’s list of best young British novelists – a once-a-decade roster with a reputation for predicting literary stars.   

The lineup of 20 writers under 40 also includes Taiye Selasi, Sarah Hall, Adam Foulds, Adam Thirlwell and Helen Oyeyemi.

The list includes 12 women and eight men, whose roots stretch from China, Nigeria, Ghana, the US, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

One of the least known is 33-year-old Selasi, a London-born, Boston-raised writer with Ghanaian and Nigerian parents who has been mentored by Toni Morrison. Her first novel, ”Ghana Must Go,” was published last month.

The best known is probably Smith, 37, who shot to fame in 2000 with her debut novel ”White Teeth” and has gone on to write novels including ”On Beauty” and ”NW.” The list also includes Naomi Alderman – author of three novels and creator of a zombie-themed fitness phone app –and former pro basketball player and six-time novelist Benjamin Markovits.

Other well-known authors include Kamila Shamsie. All of the authors are British citizens – except Shamsie who is in the process of getting citizenship – but many have backgrounds from all over the world. From Somalia and China, to Texas and Karachi.

Sarah Hall, who has already been shortlisted for the Man Booker; and Ross Raisin, whose first novel, God’s Own Country, made him the Sunday Times young writer of the year in 2009.

Granta editor John Freeman said the list demonstrated ”that the novel has a bold, brilliant future in Britain.”

The panel considered whether to regard Shamsie as eligible. “She’s in the middle of becoming a British citizen, and the work is so strong it would have been facetious not to include her,” Freeman said. (The Guardian quoted).

The Granta selection, chosen by a panel of writers, editors and critics, carries weight because the magazine’s first selection, in 1983, proved prescient. Among the original 20 were future heavyweights Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie, Pat Barker, Kazuo Ishiguro, Graham Swift and Ian McEwan.

The 1993 roster included Ben Okri, Alan Hollinghurst, Jeanette Winterson and ”Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” author Louis de Bernieres.

Smith and Thirlwell both appeared on the 2003 list, along with ”Brick Lane” writer Monica Ali and ”Cloud Atlas” author David Mitchell.

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for the Foyles bookstore chain, said the 2013 selection was ”a fascinating and very promising list.” “If you look at that first list (in 1983), the accusations of publishing being a bit parochial and white and middle class _ you could make that claim. This list does reflect the huge diversity of ethnic backgrounds that are now recognized as part of the literary world.          ”It’s also nice to see names who have a few books under their belt and they’re acclaimed but have not really racked up the readers yet _ writers like Ross Raisin, Helen Oyeyemi, Naomi Alderman and Kamila Shamsie,” he said.

The 2013 list, in alphabetical order: 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.

Work by all the authors is published in the latest issue of Granta.

Granta also has twice compiled lists of young American novelists, in 1996 and 2007. The earlier list included Jonathan Franzen, David Guterson and Jeffrey Eugenides, while Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss and Gary Shteyngart were on the 2007 edition.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan

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