Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter has won the 10th International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, published by Faber & Faber, is the debut book – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief – by Porter, a senior editor at Granta and Portobello Books. The £30,000 prize was presented to Porter at a gala ceremony in Swansea University’s Great Hall on its new Bay Campus on Saturday (14th May).
Inspired by Crow (Faber), the collection of poems by Ted Hughes, Grief is the Thing with Feathers is the story of two young boys who face the "unbearable sadness" of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and "scruffy romantic", imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and the pain of loss gives way to memories, the little unit of three starts to heal.
Chaired by Professor Dai Smith, this year’s judges were author Kamila Shamsie and Sarah Hall, poet Professor Kurt Heinzelman, film and theatre director Phyllida Lloyd, and novelist, poet and playwright Professor Owen Sheers.
Smith said: “Max Porter, the judges felt, takes the common place of grief, the pall of death, the loss of loved ones, the things that we will all experience and transforms the ordinary through an extraordinary feat of imaginative prose, but prose that slips in to poetry and out again. The way it plays with the archetypal figure of Ted Hughes’ Crow is both astonishing and beguiling. It is funny, it is deeply moving and it is a book that the judges are proud to see as the winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University.”
The five other shortlisted writers were Claire-Louise Bennett for Pond (Fitzcarraldo Editions); Tania James's The Tusk that Did the Damage (Harvill Secker); Frances Leviston's Disinformation (Picador); Andrew McMillan for Physical (Jonathan Cape) and Sunjeev Sahota's The Year of the Runaways (Picador).
This year is the 10th anniversary of the prize, which supports and nurtures young writing talent from around the world. One of the richest awards available for young fiction writers, the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize is awarded to the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.
The prize is named after Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow. Eligible works include poetry, novels, short stories and drama.
Today (14th May), is also International Dylan Day, an annual celebration of the life and work of Dylan Thomas, marking the date Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953.