Dr Fiona McFarlane wins one of the world's richest prizes for young writers with a stunning collection of short stories.
Creative writing lecturer Dr Fiona McFarlane has won a prestigious literary prize for young authors, with her second book, The High Places.
The judges of the International Dylan Thomas Prize praised the ‘mastery of form’ in the Australian author’s 13 short stories, which span countries and eras to portray a moving series of characters.
The £30,000 prize is amongst the richest awards available for young fiction writers and is given to the best work of English language fiction, written by an author aged 39 or under.
“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,” said judging chair, Professor Dai Smith, of Swansea University.
The collection’s stories include “Mycenae”, in which a middle-aged couple have a disastrous vacation with old friends. In “Good News for Modern Man”, a scientist lives on a small island with only a colossal squid and Charles Darwin’s ghost for company. The book’s eponymous story sees an Australian farmer use Old Testament methods to relieve a fatal drought.
“It is wonderful to see the strength and idiosyncratic grace of Fiona's writing recognised with such a major international award,” said Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“And what a treat, here in Sydney, for Fiona's students to understand they are being taught by a writer on an ascendant trajectory.”
The prize is named after the celebrated Welsh poet and writer, who is arguably best known for the poem, Do not go gentle into that good night. Eligible works include poetry, novels, short stories and drama.
Dr McFarlane's The High Places won a Queensland Literary Award in 2016, received a Stella Prize longlisting, and was shortlisted for the Readings New Australian Writing Award. Her first novel, The Night Guest, won the Voss Literary Prize and Barbara Jefferis Award in 2014.
Dr McFarlane completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney, a PhD in American Literature at Cambridge, and an MFA at the University of Texas. She then taught at Texas, before joining the innovative creative writing program at Sydney.
She received the award at a ceremony in Swansea, the birthplace of Thomas.
More than 40 University of Sydney staff and alumni will join the stellar line-up of guests to speak at this year's Sydney Writers' Festival.
Dr Catherine Bishop of the Laureate Research Program in International History has won a rich business literature prize with her debut book, a ‘refreshing rendering’ of colonial-era women entrepreneurs.