British-Ghanaian writer Caleb Azumah Nelson has won the 2024 Dylan Thomas Prize for his novel Small Worlds. He was awarded the £20,000 prize at a ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday, May 16.

Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize is aimed at encouraging creative talent worldwide and is worth £20,000.

Nelson was selected as the winner out of a shortlist of six writers including Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo. The judging panel was chaired by Namita Gokhale, alongside Jon Gower, Seán Hewitt, Julia Wheeler, and Tice Cin. Gokhale remarked on behalf of the panel that Nelson’s book was unanimously chosen as the winner:

Amid a hugely impressive shortlist that showcased a breadth of genres and exciting new voices, we were unanimous in our praise for this viscerally moving, heartfelt novel. There is a musicality to Caleb Azumah Nelson’s writing, in a book equally designed to be read quietly and listened aloud. Images and ideas recur to beautiful effect, lending the symphonic nature of Small Worlds an anthemic quality, where the reader feels swept away by deeply realised characters as they traverse between Ghana and South London, trying to find some semblance of a home. Emotionally challenging yet exceptionally healing, Small Worlds feels like a balm: honest as it is about the riches and the immense difficulties of living away from your culture.

Nelson’s 2023 novel Small Worlds is set over the course of three summers from South London to Ghana and back again, exploring the intimate worlds a father and son build for themselves, live, dance and love within. The book was released on July 18, 2023 by Grove Press.

Nelson posted on his Instagram about the win, commenting that he is thrilled about the small worlds that have led to the win of Small Worlds:

Delighted – and still a little shocked! – to have won the @dylanthomasprize 2024 – huge, huge congrats to the other shortlisted writers, what a wonderful cohort to be a part of. Big thank you to my team @vikingbooksuk @groveatlantic and to my editors @isabel_amw @katie_raissian for always guiding my work and bringing the best out of me, always. @serenadams – thank you, thank you for always being my side. And to my small world: my friends, my wonderful family and partner, this book is for you, all the people who make me, me, and I’m beyond grateful for you all. Big big love to everyone who’s picked up a copy or sold a copy or had a hand in what’s been a wild few years. It never fails to astound me that something I wrote in private could make it’s way out into the world in such a big way, I’m always grateful.

Caleb Azumah Nelson is a British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His debut novel, Open Water, won the Costa First Novel Award and Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Waterstones Book of the Year, and longlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize. His second novel, Small Worlds, was shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction.

Congratulations to Nelson!