Max Porter’s debut Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber) has won the Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2016.
The £5,000 award was presented at a ceremony at the London Library on 8 December.
This year’s judges Andrew Holgate, James Naughtie and Stella Tillyard praised Porter’s part novella, part polyphonic fable.
Stella Tillyard said: “We found four young writers with fine futures this year, which has made the judging process a privilege. Each of the shortlisted books is remarkable, but what stood out for me in Porter's work was its intimacy and toughness and the fact that it defied definition. His book is a novella, a prose poem, a comic elegy and a meditation on the progress of grief all at once. Porter's joyful linguistic inventiveness, and the confidence that runs through the book, augur well for his future career.”
Andrew Holgate said: “All four writers on our shortlist have written outstanding books and have significant futures ahead of them, I'm absolutely confident of that. But what stood out about Max Porter's book was its extraordinary inventiveness, combined with its remarkable emotional honesty. For a book to be as formally bold as Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is rare; for one to be as adventurous and ambitious in its literary references even rarer. But to produce something from these constituent parts that is still so poignant, direct and emotionally resonant is truly remarkable.”
Commenting on the winner, James Naughtie said: “Diamond-sharp prose with an affecting poetic pulse, and surging emotions that are perfectly tempered and managed. This is a writer bursting with originality.”
Grief is the Thing With Feathers has received exceptional critical acclaim in 2016, winning the International Dylan Thomas Prize and Waterstones book of the month. The novella explores the fate of two young boys and their father as they face the sudden death of their mother. Max Porter was born in 1981 and works in publishing.
Porter’s novella was selected from an impressive line-up including 2016 Somerset Maugham winners Jessie Greengrass for her time-spanning collection of short stories An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It (JM Originals) and Andrew McMillan for his debut poetry collection Physical (Cape Poetry). Benjamin Wood completed 2016 short list with his second novel The Ecliptic (Scribner).
About the prize
The prize, administered by the SoA, was founded in 1991 and has since accumulated an exceptional list of alumni – winners who have had great successes in contemporary literature
Following a seven year break, the award returned in 2015, awarding debut poet Sarah Howe the top prize for her phenomenal first collection, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus), which then went on to win the country’s leading prize for poetry, the T.S. Eliot Prize.
For the first time, this year’s award will also be chronicled by an official shadow judging panel made up of some of the country’s leading book bloggers: Eric Karl Andersen (lonesomereader.com), Kim Forrester (readingmattersblog.com), Naomi Frisby (thewritesofwoman.wordpress.com), Charlie Place (wormhole.carnelianvalley.com), and Simon Savidge (savidgereads.wordpress.com).
The next Young Writer Award will be presented in 2017.