Pandora: A triumph of form over content?

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The Independent Online

An unexpected spat has broken out amongst the literati of Wales. Tessa Dahl, pictured, the statuesque mother of Sophie and daughter of Roald, is engaged in a harsh exchange of words with the organisers of the world's richest literary award, The Dylan Thomas Prize.

This year's round of the competition, which celebrates authors under the age of 30, was launched this week in the United States to coincide with St David's Day. Unusually, writers may receive nominations irrespective of their discipline, be that poetry, short stories, novels or scripts – a characteristic that has left Dahl sceptical of the ceremony's merit.

"Whatever your metier is, you'll think yours is the best," she observes. "A poet of course will think poetry ought to win, and a novelist will think their form is best."

It's not an assessment that has pleased the award's organisers. "Our judges seek excellence," observes Peter Stead, chairman of the Prize, in response. "It would be a poor critic indeed who stood out for their own form of writing in the face of true quality in another genre."

Ms Dahl's criticisms, of course, are something of an irony: her grandfather famously dabbled in all of the competition's categories.

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