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The 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist is announced

Posted on 22nd March 2016 by Sally Campbell
Judges have agreed unanimously on the “eye-catching, eclectic and totally energising” shortlist for 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize.

Now in its tenth year, the annual International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious - and richest - prizes for young writers. It awards £30,000 to the best new literary work of fiction, written in English, by an author under 40.  

In its search for bright, young talent to nurture, the International Dylan Thomas Prize casts its net wide: the award considers poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

The prize's namesake, Dylan Thomas, was one of the most internationally-renowned and influential writers of the mid-twentieth century. He was also exceptionally successful at a young age.

Professor Dai Smith chaired the panel of judges, which comprised:  Sarah Hall (author), Phyllida Lloyd (film and theatre director), Kamila Shamsie (author), Professor Owen Sheers (novelist, poet and playwright), and Professor Kurt Heinzelman (poet).

Kurt Heinzelman said: “I have been a judge for all ten years of the Prize’s history, and I can say that this year’s list is the best and stylistically most diverse.”


The Shortlist:


by Claire-Louise Bennett (Wiltshire, England)  


This energetic, poetic and highly acclaimed debut by Claire-Louise Bennett comprises 20 strikingly original short stories – the shortest of which is only a few lines long. They share – or appear to share – the same, nameless narrator, a woman who lives an isolated life on the edge of a coastal town. In these mesmeric, lonely tales the woman’s restless narration animates the landscape, casting it by turns as something beautiful, horrific and increasingly bewildering. 

The Tusk that Did the Damage
by Tania James (Washington, USA)


Audacious and unconventional, The Tusk That Did The Damage tells the complicated story of how humans and wild elephants interact in the protected forestlands and small towns of South India. The narration follows three lead characters - an ivory hunter, a documentary film maker and an infamous people-killing elephant  - who are each driven by a mesh of conflicting motives; the result is an ambiguous portrayal of politics and nature, myth and fact, love and revenge.

by Frances Leviston (Edinburgh, Scotland)


Leviston’s poetry has been much admired for its inimitable style and its fierce sense of inquiry. Many of the poems in this gothic collection are concerned with the unreliable and the fictive, in particular: our modern constructed identities.  These vivid, powerful and (in an age saturated with irony) refreshingly serious poems challenge our sense of self and ask us to seek new ways of defining ourselves, free from complacency and sentimentality.

by Andrew McMillan (Manchester, England)

Raw and visceral, these poems constitute a painfully honest and sometimes shocking hymn to male love, friendship and desire.  They are a celebration of the male body, its flesh, its fear and its vulnerability. McMillan‘s poetry deftly blends the writer’s colloquial Yorkshire rhythms with Thom Gunn’s quick-fire delivery, while dispensing with conventional punctuation to create taut, lyrical and vital poetry. 


Grief is the Thing with Feathers
by Max Porter (London, England)

This mediation on grief and art is as imaginative as it is moving. Part essay, part novella, part dazzling and poetic outpouring, it tells the story of a family’s experience of bereavement. While a widower and his two young sons are trying to come to terms with his wife’s death, they are visited by a foreboding, mercurial presense: Crow. Full of unexpected humour, this is ultimately a cathartic read.


The Year of the Runaways
by Sunjeev Sahota (Sheffield, England)

The Year Of The Runaways is a compassionate and wise depiction of the experience of immigration in Britain. It is a precise and eloquent novel told from four points of view,  filled with small details and naturalistic observations.  Written in unembellished prose that has drawn comparisons to Hemmingway, it is a sympathetic book that never descends into the sentimental.


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