Is Leeds ‘completely out of the literary world’?

image-mediumFascinating piece by Hilary Robinson in the Guardian about Granta‘s editor John Freeman describing Leeds as a literary backwater.

In celebrating a fresh crop of British novelists (Report, 16 April), he says of Sunjeev Sahota one of the authors celebrated by Granta, that he “had never read a novel until he was 18 – until he bought Midnight’s Children at Heathrow.

He studied maths, he works in marketing and finance; he lives in Leeds, completely out of the literary world” … All agree that Sunjeev Sahota’s tale of recent Sikh immigrants in Yorkshire is magically observed. But is he fair on Leeds

Read more from the article.

Granta’s list in full

Naomi Alderman (born 1974), author of books including The Liars’ Gospel and designer of computer games.

Tahmima Anam (1975), whose Bengal Trilogy charts Bangladeshi history from the war of independence onwards.

Ned Beauman (1985), who was longlisted for the Man Booker prize for The Teleportation Accident.

Jenni Fagan (1977), whose debut, The Panopticon, was published 2012. She is also a poet.

Adam Foulds (1974) won the Costa poetry prize for his poem about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. His novels include The Quickening Maze, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker.

Xiaolu Guo (1973) was shortlisted for the Orange prize for A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Sarah Hall (1974) has won and been shortlisted for many awards for her novels, which include How To Paint a Dead Man.

Steven Hall (1975) has published one novel, The Raw Shark Texts, which won the Somerset Maugham award.

Joanna Kavenna (1973), whose books include Come to the Edge, won the Orange prize for new writing.

Benjamin Markovits (1973) turned from professional basketball playing to writing, including a trilogy on the life of Lord Byron.

Nadifa Mohamed (1981) was born in Somalia and won the Betty Trask award for her debut, Black Mamba Boy.

Helen Oyeyemi (1984) is the author of three novels including White is for Witching.

Ross Raisin (1979) is the author of God’s Own Country, shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, and Waterline.

Sunjeev Sahota (1981) is working on his second novel, The Year of the Runaways.

Taiye Selasi (1979) has just published her debut, Ghana Must Go.

Kamila Shamsie (1973) has written five novels; the most recent, Burnt Shadows, was shortlisted for the Orange prize.

Zadie Smith (1975) is the author of four novels. The latest is NW. She was on the Granta list in 2003.

David Szalay (1974) is the author of three novels: London and the South-east, The Innocent and Spring.

Adam Thirlwell (1974) has written two novels and was on the Granta list in 2003.

Evie Wyld (1980) publishes her second novel, All the Birds, Singing, in June.

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8 thoughts on “Is Leeds ‘completely out of the literary world’?

  1. Literary map of Leeds? Is that anything Big Bookend can help support or display over the festival weekend?

    Also, back to the Granta debate, Waterstones is hosting a Granta evening on Wednesday 8th May with Sunjeev Sahota and Evie Wyld, hosted by Granta’s Saskia Vogel. Could be a good opportunity for Leeds folk to get vocal!

    http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/displayDetailEvent.do?searchType=2&store=266%7CWATERSTONE'S%20LEEDS%2093-97&sFilter=1

  2. There’s been a lot of comment on Facebook and Twitter about John Freeman’s comment which is completely ill-informed and London-centric. The Big Bookend has worked hard over the last two years to bring our rock festival of words to the city and there is a vibrant literary scene that has existed for decades. We want to celebrate Leeds’ rich literary past and its future talent. Have a look at our website, http://www.bigbookend.co.uk and help us prove John Freeman wrong. Not that it will take much!

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