Australia writer Fiona McFarlane’s “unforgettable collection of stunning short stories” The High Places has been named as winner of the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize.
The High Places, published by Sceptre in the UK and Farrar, Straus, Giroux in the US, skips across continents, eras, and genres to chart the borderlands of emotional life. In her story “Mycenae”, she describes a middle aged couple’s disastrous vacation with old friends, while in “Good News for Modern Man”, a scientist lives on a small island with only a colossal squid and the ghost of Charles Darwin for company, for example.
McFarlane is also the author of novel The Night Guest (Sceptre).
She triumphed over a shortlist comprising short stories, poetry and prose which included Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage (Granta), Alys Conran’s Pigeon, (Parthian); Luke Kennard’s Cain, (Penned in the Margins), Sarah Perry ‘s The Essex Serpent, (Serpent’s Tail) and Callan Wink’s Dog Run Moon: Stories (Granta).
The £30,000 prize is one of the richest awards available for young fiction writers, awarded to the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.
It is named after Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas with the intention of celebrating his 39 years of creativity and productivity, and is run in association with Swansea University.
Chair of judges, professor Dai Smith CBE, of Swansea University, said: “From an exceptionally talented shortlist 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.”
This Sunday (14th May), marks International Dylan Day, an annual celebration of the life and work of the writer.