International Dylan Thomas Prize 2017 Winner:
The High Places by Fiona McFarlane

It’s our pleasure to confirm Fiona McFarlane’s collection of short tales The High Places as the winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize 2017. Described by Chair of judges Professor Dai Smith CBE, of Swansea University, as “a mature work by a young writer who exemplifies the international spirit of this prize,” The High Places takes the reader on a journey across continents and eras to map the moments emotions sculpt our lives, from an obsessive scientist in communion with the spirit of Darwin to an Australian Farmer driven by biblical voices to relieve a fatal drought.

 

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Launched in 2006 and with a purse of £30,000, the accolade is the largest literary prize in the world for young writers and has helped propel a number of new talents, including last year’s much-lauded winner Max Porter, with his elegiac Grief is the Thing with Feathers.

 

"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."

Professor Dai Smith - Chair of judges

 

Dylan Thomas lived for just 39 years and the Prize is a monument to that youthful creativity, defining the age limit of entry and with its broad remit (the best published or produced literary work in the English language) ensuring a very diverse selection of titles.

The 2017 Shortlist

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Dinesh is a young man trapped on the frontlines between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers. Desensitized to the horror all around him, life has been pared back to the essentials. All this changes when he is approached by an older man who asks him to marry his daughter Ganga, hoping that victorious soldiers will be less likely to harm a married woman. For a few brief hours, Dinesh and Ganga tentatively explore their new and unexpected connection, trying to understand themselves and each other, until the war once more closes over them.
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An incongruous ice-cream van lurches up into the Welsh hills through the hail, pursued by a boy and girl who chase it into their own dark, make-believe world, and unfurl in their compelling voices a tale which ultimately breaks out of a childhood and echoes across the years. Pigeon is the tragic, occasionally hilarious and ultimately intense story of a childhood friendship and how it’s torn apart, a story of guilt, silence and the loss of innocence, and a story about the kind of love which may survive it all.
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Tricksy, acerbic and laugh-out-loud funny, Cain is the dazzling new collection from Next Generation Poet Luke Kennard. In a series of animated conversations, Cain provides therapy sessions for the author, covering everything from interfaith dialogue and genealogy to zombies. Cain's central sequence of 31 anagram poems re-energises Genesis 4:9-12, demonstrating the mastery of form and trademark surreal humour that has made Kennard one of British poetry's brightest lights.
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Fourteen short stories, taken from a dizzying range of locales, eras and perspectives, charting the moments of change that define lives. The range is enormous, from a mollusc specialist – keeping watch on a coastal colossal squid – conversing with the ghost of Darwin, to a farmer who up sticks with his son based on transistor-radio prophecies of god. Each story creeps around a terrain of strangeness, the familiar made alien, bearing comparison to both Flannery O’Connor and Patricia Highsmith.

‘Deliciously unsettling, her characters act and react in unexpected ways, taking both reader and themselves by surprise.’ – The Guardian 
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Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent is our Waterstones Book of the Year, set in the brooding marshes of late Victorian Essex, the recently-widowed Cora Seagrave relinquishes the staid predictability of the capital to pursue rumour of a great, unknown beast, a ‘living fossil’ dwelling in the county’s desolate borderlands. Seagrave’s obsession – the enthusiasms of a new kind of independent woman, brimming with enquiry – bring her into conflict with Ransome, the local vicar seeking an oasis of faith; it’s a quarrel that ultimately kindles a far more personal tension. Beyond, a brilliantly-drawn cast describe a world that is itself at odds, an edgeland where tradition slides inexorably toward the modern.
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The setting may be the vast plains and mountains of the American West, but the journeys within Callan Wink’s debut Dog Run Moon are largely internal, characters often placed on moments of opposition. In ‘One More Stand’, the remote theatre of historical re-enactment places a reborn General Custer within the context of a seven-year affair with a Native American woman; elsewhere, in ‘Exotics’, a teacher takes summer time out to tend a ranch of African animals intended for the hunt; or in ‘Dog Run Moon’, a Montana steel worker steals a dog and is pursued by its owner. The conclusions for each are unexpected and insightful.

‘Seemingly simple imagery or innocuous acts develop complex associations that drive home the beauty, poignancy and existential truths of many of the tales.’ – The Independent 
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The 2017 Longlist

The Story of a Brief Marriage
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Pigeon
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Cain
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The High Places
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The Essex Serpent
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Dog Run Moon
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Here I Am
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The Fat Artist and Other Stories
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Homegoing
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The Outside Lands
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What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
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Cannibal
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Previous Prize Winners

Kumukanda
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The High Places
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Grief is the Thing with Feathers
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To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
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Battleborn
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Seating Arrangements
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The Meeting Point
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The Boat
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Fresh Apples
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