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Moroccan Author Wins 100,000-Euro Fiction Prize
Agence France Presse
17, 2004

DUBLIN: Moroccan-born author Tahar Ben Jelloun, based for decades in France, has won the 100,000-euro (120,000-dollar) International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, its Irish organizers announced on Thursday.

Ben Jelloun, who emigrated to France in 1961, won for his novel "This Blinding Absence of Light", Dublin City Council said.

The IMPAC award is the world's biggest literary prize for a single work of fiction.

It is the second time that the award -- established in 1996 -- has been won by the translated work of an author writing in French.

In 2002, French poet and novelist Michel Houellebe cq took the prize for his novel "Atomised", also published as "The Elementary Particles".

Ben Jelloun was selected as the winner from a short-list of 10 finalists that also included writers from Britain, the United States, Poland, Turkey, India, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

His novel, depicting the appalling conditions inside Morocco's secret jails that operated until 1991, is a "masterpiece among novels, told with searing simplicity and the sparest of language", the judges said.

"Based on facts, it takes this true story and transforms it into a powerful novel. The story about the hellholes and the survivors -- the living cadavers-- is a moving description of both unlimited evil and the power of human spirit to survive," they said.

The judges continued: "All of us on the jury recognize that this is a book of another order, covering the widest range of human potential for good, evil and redemption.

"It reiterates, as only once in a while a book does, the true purpose of literature."

Ben Jelloun, who is also an essayist and poet, was born in 1944 in Fez.

His previous novels include "The Sacred Night", which received France's Prix Goncourt in 1987, and "Corruption".

Because the winning novel was not originally written in English, the IMPAC prize money is divided, with 75,000 euros going to Ben Jelloun and 25,000 to translator Linda Coverdale.

The award, run by Dublin City Council's library department, is unique in that the shortlist is selected from a list of books nominated by 162 public libraries in 47 countries.

Ben Jelloun's book was nominated by the Deichmanske Bibliotek in Oslo, Norway.

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