Story Boat

Enid Parker (Reviews)
Filed on December 12, 2008

Khaleej Times chats with Nam Le, winner of the 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers

Nam Le believes a writer’s greatest asset is “the ability to pick oneself up and keep going.” Le is the second winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize, set up in honour of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and given to the best young writer in the English language under the age of 30.

Le debuted this year with The Boat, stories that take the reader from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Teheran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea. “Every place, once I’ve committed to giving over my imagination to it, becomes a crucible for memory, fantasy, hearsay, speculation and dream,” he says.

Born in Vietnam and raised in Australia, Le describes his relationship with his native country as ‘complex’. “I’ve been back three times. Vietnamese is my first language. I feel a deep connection with my family heritage. Maybe Australia is home and maybe Vietnam is my homeland. But I’m still exploring, both on and off the page what that might mean.” His ‘homeland’ features in two of his stories: ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’ and the title story ‘The Boat’.

He admits he was “surprised, flattered, grateful, humbled and honoured to be included on such an incredible shortlist” which included authors from around the globe, including 22-year-old Caroline Bird from Leeds, the youngest writer on the list. Praise has been swift and forthcoming for this young author. At the presentation ceremony in Swansea, South Wales, Peter Florence, chairman of the prize’s judging panel, referred to Le’s work demonstrating “a rare brilliance that is breathtaking both in the scope of its subject matter and the quality of its writing.”

The Boat is available to order online at

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