Novels by Sam Byers, Salena Godden, and Jenni Fagan have been shortlisted for this year’s Gordon Burn prize for “forward-thinking and fearless” literature. Byers’ Come Join Our Disease, Fagan’s Luckenbooth and poet Godden’s first foray into fiction, Mrs Death Misses Death, are joined on the six-book shortlist by the genre-blurring A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa and nonfiction titles A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib and Sea State by Tabitha Lasley.
All are in the running for a £5,000 cash prize and the chance to go on a writing retreat at Burn’s cottage in the Scottish Borders.
The final six was whittled down from a longlist of 12 that included titles by Niven Govinden, Musa Okwonga, Anthony Quinn, Gwendoline Riley, Caleb Azumah Nelson and Courttia Newland. This year’s judging panel was chaired by former winner of the prize Denise Mina. The Scottish crime novelist was joined by writer and poet Derek Owusu, novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie and the Guardian’s culture commissioning editor Sian Cain.
Mina said: “An unusually high standard this year made it very difficult to narrow down the longlist, but the books here are all extraordinary.”
Now in its ninth year, the Gordon Burn prize was set up in memory of the author of Fullalove and Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel. Run in partnership by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North, Faber & Faber and Durham Book Festival, the award seeks to celebrate “writing that follows in his footsteps”. Eligible works could be fiction or nonfiction, published in English between 1 July 2020 and 1 July 2021. This year’s winner will be announced at Durham Book Festival on 14 October.
In 2020, Peter Pomerantsev won the prize for This is Not Propaganda, his timely study of “the war against reality”.