Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize with my review of longlisted nominee Yara Rodrigues Fowler and her debut novel Stubborn Archivist
I am thrilled to be involved with the blog tour for the prestigious literary award, The International Dylan Thomas Prize, with my review of one of the long-listed titles, Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler.
Worth £30,000, The International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.
Please do continue reading for more information about the award and for my thoughts on the very quirky and unique novel that is Stubborn Archivist
[ The International Dylan Thomas Prize ]
From Brazil to Hong Kong, India, and Ukraine via Vietnam, this year’s powerful Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist combines a rich, international collection of young , experimental writers who are offering platforms for under-represented voices and exploring pressing social and world themes across identity, culture and power.
The 12 longlisted titles will be judged by a bumper guest panel chaired by Swansea University’s Professor Dai Smith CBE with this years’ longlist comprising seven novels, three poetry collections and two short story collections:
Surge – Jay Bernard (Chatto & Windus)
Flèche – Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
Exquisite Cadavers – Meena Kandasamy (Atlantic Books)
Things we say in the Dark – Kirsty Logan (Harvell Secker, Vintage)
Black Car Burning – Helen Mort (Chatto & Windus)
Virtuoso– Yelena Moskovich (Serpent’s Tail)
Inland – Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Stubborn Archivist – Yara Rodrigues Fowler (Fleet)
If All the World and Love were Young – Stephen Sexton (Penguin Random House)
The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay (Atlantic Books)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
Lot – Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books)
The shortlist will be announced on the 7th April, followed by a British Library Event, London on the 13th May and Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14th May.
[ About the Book ]
When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.
This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity.
[ My Thoughts ]
Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler was first published by Fleet on February 21st 2019 and is a novel garnering much attention. Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and now a nominee for The International Dylan Thomas Prize, this complex and unusual novel was written in a style very, very new to me.
The story is narrated by a young woman living in London of South American extraction. Her mother Isadora is Brazilian who, after meeting Richard, married him and remained in England, building a new life and creating a family away from the sunshine and beaches of Brazil.
The narrator introduces us to all the individuals in her life as we are transported to the heat of a Brazilian summer and the cold chill of an English winter. For the narrator, her mixed heritage causes her much soul-searching and confusion. On meeting people for the first time, they seem amazed, almost shocked, when she opens her mouth to speak and it is with an English accent. Strangers react differently to her, expecting something more stereo-typical. She is a researcher for TV programmes that focus on Brazil, but it is the expected version of Brazil as opposed to her own personal reality.
The narrator struggles on a daily basis with identity, relationships, abuse and her body. Through multiple conversations and a look back at her past through the eyes of her female relations (mother, grandmother and aunt), our narrator attempts to come to terms with her life today. Caught between two countries and two cultures she is confused, at times isolated and more often than not, very lonely. We get glimpses of happier times with friends but we also get a very subtle glimpse of a darker time in her life, one that has had a huge impact on her relationships with everyone and how she views the world.
Stubborn Archivist is not just a story, it is an experience, a very extraordinary and rare read. With it’s frequent poetic and staccato-style of writing, it can prove challenging at times but the creative and playful side of the writer shines through and encourages the reader to turn the pages.
Stubborn Archivist is a very contemporary and original piece of work. Packed with originality, this really is a very affecting debut from a novelist who is sure to find her own unique standing in modern literature today.
[ Bio ]
Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a novelist from South London. She is also a trustee of Latin American Women’s Aid, an organisation that runs the only two refuges in Europe for and by Latin American women. Stubborn Archivist is Yara’s first novel; she is currently writing her second.