Diana Evans.

The Zimbabwean novelist Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and the British-Nigerian novelist Diana Evans have been longlisted for the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize, for their respective novels House of Stone and Ordinary People. Tshuma’s House of Stone recently won the 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award while Evans’ Ordinary People was longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Here is the longlist:

  • Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young (Bloomsbury)
  • The Crossway by Guy Stagg (Picador)
  • Francis: A Life in Songs by Ann Wroe (Chatto and Windus)
  • Ghost Trees by Bob Gilbert (Saraband)
  • House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Atlantic)
  • I Am Dynamite! by Sue Prideaux (Faber)
  • Land of the Living by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury)
  • The Library of Ice by Nancy Campbell (Scribner)
  • Little by Edward Carey (Gallic Books)
  • Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly (Unbound)
  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Faber)
  • Mothers by Chris Power (Faber)
  • Murmur by Will Eaves (CB Editions)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber)
  • Ordinary People by Diana Evans (Chatto and Windus)
  • The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus (Penned in the Margins)
  • Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif (Bloomsbury)
  • There There by Tommy Orange (Harvill Secker)
  • Us by Zaffar Kunial (Faber)
  • West by Carys Davies (Granta)
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. Image from Aerodrome.

While nominations were made by members of the Folio Academy, the 2019 judges are Chloe Aridjis, Kate Clanchy, and Owen Sheers.

“Arriving at a longlist from the 80 outstanding books nominated by the Folio academy was never going to be easy,” said the prize co-founder Andrew Kidd. “But Kate, Chloe and Owen have applied themselves with a mixture of serious intent and good humour to give us a selection of titles that is thrilling in its richness, diversity and range.”

Priding itself as “the first major English language book prize to celebrate the best literature of our time, regardless of form,” the Rathbones Folio Prize has an interesting history. Founded as simply the Literature Prize in 2014, the prize had been conceived as an alternative to the Booker Prize after the 2011 Booker shortlist received serious criticism. That year, the Booker judges were accused of having leaned towards “readability” at the expense of literary merit. The Folio Prize gained massive support among the globe’s leading writers–including Booker Prize winners Peter Carey, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee; and Women’s Prize winners Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who was due to deliver the award’s inaugural lecture in 2014 until an illness ensured she could not.

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While its combination of fiction and nonfiction in a single shortlist is unprecedented for a highbrow literary fiction award, the prize already set its own pace when, at its founding in 2014, it considered every English-language novel published in the UK by an author from any country worldwide. At that time, the Booker was still limited to only authors from Commonwealth countries.

In its three-year existence, the prize has undergone three name changes. From the Literature Prize, it became the Folio Prize after the London-based publisher The Folio Society picked interest, and after Rathbones Investment Management Ltd became its sponsors last December, it became the Rathbones Folio Prize.

The inaugural 2014 prize was won by the American George Saunders for his short story collection Tenth of December. In 2015, the Indian-American Akhil Sharma won for his autobiographical novel Family Life. That year, Kenya’s Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor became the first African to be shortlisted for her poetic novel Dust. The prize was not awarded in 2016. It went to Hisham Matar in 2017 for his memoir The Return, and to Richard Lloyd Parry in 2018 for his reportage Ghosts of the Tsunami.

The shortlist will be announced on 4 April, and the winner on 20 May at a ceremony in the British Library.

Brittle Paper congratulates Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Diana Evans.