Skip to main content

Dafydd Mills Daniel—a Bridport Prize winner in Short Fiction

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 - 11:45am

Dafydd Mills Daniel, McDonald Lecturer in Christian Ethics, has been awarded 3rd place on the international Bridport Prize for his short story, 'What The Deal Is'. See the results and learn more about the winning authors here.

The judge, writer Nell Leyshon, described Dafydd's story as follows:
"The story I chose for third prize, What The Deal Is, is a highly musical piece with a truly original voice. Each paragraph is one sentence and the layout and punctuation are original and add to the musicality.
It tells us how human beings are treated, how human society is ordered. It felt like a microcosm of the world...It is at once a horrible mirror on the world and a brilliant piece of writing which contains 'all kinds of cruel imaginings'."

Oxford students who choose to take the paper, 'Ethics I: Christian Moral Reasoning', in Theology may not be surprised to learn of Dafydd's interest in fiction - in his class seminars, he regularly uses extracts from authors to illustrate debates and ideas in ethics, including: W.H. Auden, Joseph Conrad, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, O. Henry, George Orwell, Ovid, Edgar Allen Poe, and Leo Tolstoy.



Dafydd's story, along with the other prize winners, is now available in The Bridport Prize Anthology 2020. Here is an extract:

Sheriff said there was nothing unusual in that for him and he’s right most often about that
you don’t know what it is but people will lead you over to their own evil without a word
like they expect that it’s gone away or that you might not even notice it for what it is when you get there
like maybe they hadn’t noticed it for what it was themselves yet and so didn’t think one odd thought about it
yes that’s what the Sheriff said even about this Mexican
said that he’d known people doing things that guess the people coming asking are the law so that they done clean their way out so when they stay they haven’t guessed it yet
or it’s just that you get to doing something long enough no matter what it is that it just don’t seem like it’s gonna end
it seems like it’s complete and real and everlasting and as solid as the fist in your hand and to doubt it being allowed to go on is like doubting yourself and the colour of dirt
and that that Mexican most likely just wasn’t thinking about getting caught even if he’d known Sheriff Tom for what he was when he’d been up on him earlier that day
either that or the Sheriff had come back and got him just as he was fixing to leave
but most likely that Mexican didn’t think one way questioning about it
except maybe that there was luck to ride and it wasn’t his choice when to stop riding
that it wasn’t up to him when the luck ran out.

According to Dafydd:

Under lockdown, when everything stopped, it suddenly seemed like I had been waiting to do so many things without even realising it—and that I had been waiting without even realising that the time for either waiting or doing would one day run out. And so I decided to do something I have thought about doing since a friend suggested it to me when I was 21: submit, not just to a short story competition for the first time, but to the Bridport Prize—the one she mentioned then, which I have followed ever since. In submitting to a competition for the first time, it’s not even that writing fiction has seemed to me to be something personal—something shared, at most, with certain family and friends - it seemed instead that it just was something for me to do as some might paint canvases privately in a bedroom—a form of art painstakingly done for its own sake—or, rather, necessarily and inevitably done for one’s own sake; it did not seem likely—a live possibility—that anyone would be interested in the style or subjects I am writing about. So, to say I am shocked, thrilled, and encouraged to come 3rd in the Bridport Prize is true to the fullest extent of those individual words, and still an understatement. The story itself is written in a style I developed some years ago for my privately painted stories—a style that is intended, in fact, to deliver the patterns of meter and pace like layers on a canvas—but the particular voice of the story appeared (somehow) when that style met with a Malaysian news report that I read, of all places, in a few lines of an old edition of Private Eye. The story itself then is sadly inspired by a real car wash in the physical and moral world we inhabited before the pandemic—where that physical world has now changed beyond all recognition, we might still wonder about the moral one.