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Vietnamese wins 60k Dylan award

10 November 08 21:59 GMT

A 29-year-old writer originally from Vietnam is the second winner of one of the world's biggest literary awards, the £60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize.

Nam Le, who grew up in Australia, beat five rivals with his debut collection of short stories The Boat.

The prize was presented at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea on Monday night, and he follows the first winner, Welsh writer Rachel Tresize, from Rhondda.

Le is now based in New York, where he is Harvard Review fiction editor.

The global award, sponsored by the University of Wales, is open to any work, from any genre, which has been published in English and written by someone under 30. Lee who was presented with the prize by Dylan Thomas' daughter Aeronwy, said he had been initially intimidated at the thought of spending a week with his fellow finalists.

However, in the end he said he had been delighted to have made five new friends who he would keep for life.

"It's been a crazy week," he explained on accepting the prize. "I thought it could not get much better than Barack Obama winning the US election. "Thank you so much. I am incredibly thrilled to be here to share this surreal moment with you."

It has strong Welsh roots and close links with Swansea, where Dylan Thomas was born and wrote much of his poetry.

Next year the winner will undertake a residency at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, where he plans to work on his next book.

Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival and chair of the prize's judges, said it was difficult "to pick an ultimate winner from such a competitive shortlist".

"In Nam Le, I am confident we have found a winner worthy of Dylan Thomas.

"His outstanding work demonstrated a rare brilliance that is breathtaking both in the scope of its subject matter and the quality of its writing.

"Nam tackles his own background and circumstances as well as that of others with a clear eye, focussed intelligence and wonderful use of words.

"He is, in this panel's opinion, a phenomenal literary talent, and I look forward to following his career as it progresses."

Three of the writers who were in the running for the biennial award were from the UK, and the other three were from South Africa, Ethiopia and

Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta-Jones , an ambassador for the prize, said she was "delighted to hear that we have yet another worthy winner in Nam Le."

Welsh Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "Dylan Thomas's legacy lives on through the Dylan Thomas Prize, giving exceptional young writers the opportunity to shine and share their incredible work.

"To win a prestigious competition like this is a sure sign of raw and striking talent.

"The participants and organisers of the Dylan Thomas Prize are ensuring that the literary community has a very special relationship with the ugly, lovely town that inspired one of the finest writers of the modern age."

The prize was first unveiled jointly in Swansea and New York in 2004 on the 90th anniversary of Dylan Thomas's birth, to be open to writers of novels, poetry, plays and travel books.

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