Judges agree unanimously on the Shortlist for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize

The shortlist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University, is announced today (Tuesday 22 March). 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the prize, which supports and nurtures young writing talent from around the world.

The distinguished panel of judges, Chaired by Professor Dai Smith (Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University) and comprising Sarah Hall (author), Professor Kurt Heinzelman (poet), Phyllida Lloyd (film and theatre director), Kamila Shamsie (author), and Professor Owen Sheers (novelist, poet and playwright), agreed unanimously on the six-strong list, after 2.5 hours of deliberation.

The shortlisted writers are:

  • Claire-Louise Bennett (Wiltshire, England), Pond, Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • Tania James (Washington, USA), The Tusk that Did the Damage, Harvill Secker [UK] / Alfred A. Knopf [US]
  • Frances Leviston (Edinburgh, Scotland), Disinformation, Picador
  • Andrew McMillan (Manchester, England), Physical, Jonathan Cape
  • Max Porter (London, England), Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Faber & Faber
  • Sunjeev Sahota (Sheffield, England), The Year of the Runaways, Picador

Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist 2016The shortlist contains a vibrant mix of poetry and prose, featuring two works of poetry (Disinformation and Physical), a novella (Grief is the Thing with Feathers), a book of short stories (Pond) and two novels (The Tusk that Did the Damage and The Year of the Runaways). These exciting works of creative fiction explore nature and our relationship with the natural world, the physical body and the depths of the spirit, and the impact of progress on identity. Andrew MacMillan’s Physical was winner of The Guardian First Book Award in 2015, and Sunjeev Sahota’s Year of the Runaways was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Tania James and Frances Leviston have also been shortlisted for notable literary prizes.

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.

Chair of judges, Professor Dai Smith, Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University, says: “After 2.5 hours of close and vibrant discussion, the judges had the unenviable task of selecting six works to go on to the shortlist from an exceptionally strong field. It goes without saying, therefore, that the final choice, unanimously agreed, shows an astounding array of form, genre and achievement from such young writers. The shortlist for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize, in partnership with Swansea University, is eye-catching, eclectic and totally energising. The ultimate winner of the 2016 Prize will be truly exceptional as a result.”

Judge Sarah Hall says: “This is a really exciting and unusually varied shortlist. The books featured have perhaps only one thing in common - literary ambition and the breathtakingly successful execution of their visions, but otherwise they resist categorisation. Structurally, narratively, and linguistically they innovate, breaking down boundaries, reaching the reader in new and unexpected ways. There is such a wide range of perspectives, playfulness, intellect, strange and deadly serious content, and a depth of humanity that it is hard to know where to begin in describing each. One thing is clear, these six writers are phenomenally talented, and absolutely worthy of a place on a prize list bearing the name and spirit of Dylan Thomas.”

Judge Professor Kurt Heinzelman, says: “Judging the International Dylan Thomas Prize is far more difficult than any other literary award I have ever judged. The reason is that the Prize is not only open to all English-language authors under 40 years old, no matter their national origin, but it is also open to all genres, for Thomas himself excelled in multiple genres. As a result one has to adjudicate between, say, a 60-page book of poetry and a novel of 800 pages, or between experimental or non-traditional kinds of writing and consummate stories in a naturalist vein. 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 shortlisted authors will be appearing at the Southbank Centre on Thursday 12 May in a special event celebrating the prize’s tenth anniversary. To book tickets, click here.

The winner will be announced at a gala ceremony in Swansea University’s Great Hall on its stunning new Bay Campus, on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May 2016.

View our International Dylan Thomas Prize Flickr gallery

Follow the shortlist on Twitter #IDTP16