Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
Gabriel Krauze grew up in London in a Polish family and was drawn to a life of crime and gangs from an early age. Now in his thirties he has left that world behind and is recapturing his life through writing. He has published short stories in Vice. Who They Was is his first novel.
‘An astonishingly powerful book. Krauze is an immense new talent’ Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love ‘Magnificent in its relentless intensity and searing honesty, this is a new voice arriving fully formed and raring to go’ Booker Prize judges 2020 ‘It is exceptional’ Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie ‘A wild ride from the very first page. An astonishing telling of a young man's search for belonging, caught between a life of crime with his London gang and hopes for his academic future’ Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain ‘Arrives on the literary scene like the sound of gunfire over a south Kilburn housing estate … With its distinctive argot and moments of ultraviolence, Who They Was is akin to A Clockwork Orange – except that instead of a well-heeled author’s fantastical brainchild, it is a hyperrealistic tale from a writer who has lived the lifestyle it describes’ Guardian ‘By turns visceral, funny, moving and appalling … a powerful evocation of gang life on this estate in south Kilburn’ The Times ‘Who They Was could—and should—prove a historical turning point for British literature and future, as yet unheard, voices’ Complex ‘There is a lot of soul-searching, but it is never allowed to interrupt the action for long; Gabriel is just as likely to be witnessing somebody else’s navel being sliced open as gazing at his own … he writes honestly and infesctiously about the buzz that comes with committing violent crime … he has plenty of talent to see him through’ Telegraph ‘I cannot conjure another work which captures this culture in such depth – or with such brutal honesty – as only lived experience can tell. This is a literary rendering of the Top Boy generation Krauze's voice is stuck in my head and it is an authentic voice of the streets’ Graeme Armstrong, author of The Young Team