Debut collection wins Frank O'Connor Award

Debut collection wins Frank O'Connor Award

The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award has been given to Irish author Colin Barrett, for his debut collection Young Skins.

Sponsored by Cork City Council and The School of English at University College Cork, the €25,000 award is described as the most lucrative prize in the world for a collection of short stories. Previous winners include Haruki Murakami, Edna O'Brien and Ron Rash.

The book was first published in Ireland by The Stinging Fly Press in 2013, and was published in the UK this year by Jonathan Cape. Grove Atlantic will publish in the US next year, while translations are also planned for the Netherlands and France.

Novelists Alison MacLeod and Manuel Gonzales, poet Matthew Sweeney and artistic director of the Munster Literature Centre Patrick Cotter judged the prize. MacLeod said: "How dare a debut writer be this good? Young Skins has all the hallmarks of an instant classic.  Barrett's prose is exquisite but never rarefied.  His characters - the damaged, the tender-hearted and the reckless - are driven by utterly human experiences of longing. His stories are a thump to the heart, a mainline surge to the core. His vision is sharp, his wit is sly, and the stories in this collection come alive with that ineffable thing - soul."

Cotter said: "I’m grateful we can continue to offer this lucrative award in difficult economic times. Huge kudos to Cork City Council and UCC for supporting this unique award into its tenth year."

Barrett grew up in Mayo and studied English at University College Dublin, working for a mobile phone company before returning to UCD to do an MA in creative writing. He said: "Consider me knocked splendidly sideways by the news. It's a bewilderment and honour to be awarded the 2014 Frank O'Connor prize."

Alex Bowler, editorial director at Jonathan Cape, told The Bookseller: "I've followed what Stinging Fly Press do for years and they have so much amazing stuff. I started seeing Colin's writings in their quarterly journal and knew he was good, but they were determined to publish him themselves. I hoped I could get involved for his next book, but when we went to Frankfurt, the Irish Writing Centre was displaying copies and other editors could see immediately how good Colin was, so it forced my hand, and we bought English rights for this book and a forthcoming novel."

He added: "It's an honour to publish him, he's a fantastically controlled writer with a contemporary voice. The prize win is great, but it doesn't change how we feel about short stories – we have always had faith in them, and know they are as saleable a book as any."

The prize will be presented to Barrett as the closing go the Cork International Short Story Festival in September.