Revealed: the UK’s best young writers

By Jennifer Lipman, April 18, 2013
Ben Markovits: Byron trilogy

Ben Markovits: Byron trilogy

A rabbi's son and the author of a book about a rabbi's daughter have been named as two of the most promising novelists in the country.

And in a sign that Britain's Jewish literary scene now rivals that of the United States, a quarter of the 20 men and women featured on Granta magazine's prestigious, once-a-decade list of young writers are Jewish - more than on any of its three previous lists.

"It's an exciting time," said Adam Foulds, the author of four books, including The Truth About These Strange Times, who was selected alongside Naomi Alderman, Benjamin Markovits, Ned Beauman and Adam Thirlwell. "I guess there are a few of us out there."

Mr Foulds, the son of New Essex Masorti rabbi Michael Foulds, said he was inspired by the work of Jewish American novelists such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. "There is now a very rich tradition to draw on of fiction by diaspora Jewish writers - literature of a high standard that comes out of their experience or the experience of their grandparents' generation.

Several of the Jewish novelists listed by Granta - which highlights writers aged under 40 - have drawn on their religious heritage in their work. Ms Alderman, daughter of JC columnist Geoffrey Alderman, is the author of three novels, including Disobedience, a discussion of sexuality in the north-west London Orthodox community.

Naomi Alderman draws on her roots

Naomi Alderman draws on her roots

She said: "It's always good to have an accolade like this - it helps to get the voices of past critics out of my head."

Mr Beauman, whose second novel was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker prize, had a largely secular upbringing, although his mother, Perspehone books founder Nicola Beauman, is Jewish.

"I went to my first seder this year," he said. "You have to get through a lot before you're allowed to eat."

Nevertheless, his debut novel Boxer, Beetle was set against the backdrop of Hitler's rise and told the story of a gay Jewish boxer and a Nazi sympathizer.

"It was interesting to explore that knowing that, as my mum always says, if id been born 100 years earlier id have been a rabbi."

At 28 Mr Beauman is one of the younger members of a list that features only writers under the age of 40, although older than Mr Thirlwell was when he first appeared on it in 2003.

Now 34 and working on his third full-length novel, the former Haberdashers Aske pupil said he is delighted to have made a second appearance. "In retrospect it feels like a huge relief – not being on it would have looked like I'd declined."

"It's a great thing," added Mr Thirlwell, who also cites Roth and Bellow as his literary heroes. "It gave me confidence in my career, and confidence to do more crazy things with writing. And in a practical way, getting attention to books is difficult."

"Because there are 20 of us, you get some sort of economies of scale," said Benjamin Markovits, the author of a celebrated trilogy about Lord Byron. "So you don't have to jump up on your own, and you get international publicity, which is much harder to do on your own or without the backing of something like Granta.

"Will this boost my career? Ask me in 10 years."

Last updated: 12:39pm, April 18 2013