A collection of short stories which skip across continents, eras and genres to chart the borderlands of emotional life has won the 11th International Dylan Thomas Prize.
Australian author Fiona McFarlane’s The High Places was awarded the £30,000 prize at a gala ceremony at Swansea University on Wednesday.
The book of 13 short tales include Mycenae, which describes a middle-aged couple’s disastrous vacation with old friends – while in Good News For Modern Man, a scientist living on a small island has just a colossal squid and the ghost of Charles Darwin for company.
The title story follows an Australian farmer who turns to Old Testament methods to relieve a fatal drought.
It is 39-year-old Fiona’s second book, after her award-winning novel The Night Guest in 2013.
Chair of judges Professor Dai Smith said: “From an exceptionally talented short-list of six works, after a great deal of vigorous discussion, the judges recognised the mastery of form which is present in Fiona McFarlane’s unforgettable collection of stunning short stories.
“The High Places, the judges thought, was highly varied in tone and brought the reader to characters, situations and places which were haunting in their oddity and moving in their human empathy.This is a mature work by a young writer who exemplifies the international spirit of this prize.”
The award was presented ahead of International Dylan Day on Sunday, an annual celebration of the life and work of the Welsh poet – marking the date Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Centre in New York in 1953.
The prize aims to support and nurture young writing talent from around the world and is awarded to the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.