The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award 2014 – at €25,000 the world's most valuable short story collection prize – has been won by the young Mayo writer Colin Barrett for his debut collection Young Skins.
Barrett (31) who studied English at UCD, is only the second Irish writer to win the award in its 10 years in existence, the other being Edna O'Brien.
The annual award, run by the Munster Literature Centre is sponsored by UCC and Cork City Council, and was founded to encourage publishers to issue more collections of stories by individual authors – and to acknowledge Cork's special relationship with the short story: not only Frank O'Connor but also William Trevor, Elizabeth Bowen and Sean O'Faolain hail from Cork.
Each year, the award attracts entries by the world's leading short story writers.
Barrett's book was first published in Ireland by the Stinging Fly Press last year and has been published in the UK this year by Jonathan Cape. It will be published in the US by Grove Atlantic in 2015 and will also appear in translation in several European countries.
DMC Film, the production company backed by Michael Fassbender, has optioned the longest story in the collection, Calm With Horses, to adapt for a feature film. The story deals with the aftermath of an attempted sexual assault.
Barrett's collection of stories is set in a fictional town in the west called Glanbeigh. A river, called the Mule, runs through it, and by its banks, stories of lust, violence and revenge play out. His setting and subject matter – the plight of the young rural male – have been compared with the work of Kevin Barry, although Barrett's stories are frequently darker and more menacing.
Reviewing the collection for this newspaper, David Robbins said that Barrett's use of language "is powerful and surprising – he talks about the 'vasculature' of pipes on the underside of an upturned car, and a character worries that people are watching 'the bulky hydraulics of his jaw' as he eats his dinner. The stories are moving and memorable".
Books Editor John Spain