Max Porter has won the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 for his "extraordinary" debut Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber).
Part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on bereavement, Grief is the Thing with Feathers has already won this year’s £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize, and last month’s Books Are My Bag Readers Award in the fiction category.
The book, about a widower and his young sons drawn from Porter's own experience of childhood loss and inspired by the work of Ted Hughes, was praised by judges for its "extraordinary inventiveness, combined with its remarkable emotional honesty".
Porter, who is the editorial director at Granta Books and Portobello Books, triumphed over three other writers to claim the £5,000 prize -Jessie Greengrass for her time-spanning short story collection An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It (JM Originals); Andrew McMillan for his debut poetry collection on male desire, Physical (Cape Poetry); and Benjamin Wood for his "immersive" second novel The Ecliptic (Scribner), who were awarded £500 each.
Sponsored by literary agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, the prize is awarded annually to the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35, either published or self-published.
This year’s award was judged by broadcaster James Naughtie, historian Stella Tillyard, and the Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate.
Holgate said: “All four writers on our shortlist have written outstanding books and have significant futures ahead of them, I'm absolutely confident of that. But what stood out about Max Porter's book was its extraordinary inventiveness, combined with its remarkable emotional honesty. For a book to be as formally bold as Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is rare; for one to be as adventurous and ambitious in its literary references even rarer. But to produce something from these constituent parts that is still so poignant, direct and emotionally resonant is truly remarkable.”
For the first time, this year’s award has been chronicled by an official shadow judging panel made up of some of the country’s leading book bloggers: Eric Karl Andersen, Kim Forrester, Naomi Frisby, Charlie Place, and Simon Savidge. Last week, the group gave their Bloggers’ Choice award to Jessie Greengrass for her shortlisted collection of short stories An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It.
The prize will next year partner with the University of Warwick, it was revealed at the ceremony. From 2017, the university will offer a bespoke 10-week residency for the award’s winner, run a day festival of events, and provide a year-round programme of on-campus and digital support for award alumni and the year’s shortlist.
Stuart Croft, vice chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “We are thrilled to announce our new partnership with the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. Our support for the award is an extension of Warwick's broader commitment to the nurture and support of literary work, particularly in emerging writing talent such as in our own student body.”