Fri 22 November 2019
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Twelve of the best new novelists
To find the most promising new writers John Mullan and a panel of judges read piles of debut novels. What did they discover about the state of British literary fiction today?

The growth of British literary fiction has been one of the most extraordinary publishing phenomena of recent decades. Not everyone has been pleased. The label "literary fiction" is often used disparagingly, as if "literary" were synonymous with "pretentious" or "plot-free". "The two most depressing words in the English language are 'literary fiction'," declared David Hare recently in this newspaper. Some like to say that there is no such thing: there are only good novels and bad novels. Yet authors and publishers and readers recognise that literary fiction exists and offers its own particular pleasures. Its surprising commercial health has given would-be novelists the confidence to experiment, to trust they can find readers interested in the new shapes fiction can take.

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