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The Write Stuff
By Carole Goldberg, Courant Books Editor
June 20, 2004

Moroccan-born novelist and poet Tahar Ben Jelloun has won the world's most lucrative literary prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, for his novel about the horrors of desert camps.

The prize, begun in 1996, is run by the Dublin, Ireland, public libraries and largely financed by Improved Management Productivity and Control, a Connecticut-based management consulting firm. IMPAC's European headquarters is in Dublin.

Ben Jelloun, 59, who lives in Paris, will receive the award in Dublin City Hall. He will get three-fourths of the $120,000 prize. The rest will go to Linda Coverdale, who translated the book into English.

Five international judges selected "This Blinding Absence of Light," a scathing portrait of political dissidents imprisoned in a Moroccan camp, as the best among more than 300 novels nominated by libraries from 43 countries. It was chosen as the best work of English fiction for 2002.

Originally published in French under the title "Cette Aveuglante Absence de Lumiere," the novel was a bestseller in France in 2001.

The work was on a 10-book shortlist that included "The Book of Illusions" by Paul Auster, "Any Human Heart" by William Boyd, "Caramelo" by Sandra Cisneros and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides.

In Connecticut, IMPAC is a sponsor of the annual IMPAC-Connecticut State University Young Writers competition, which has awarded teenage writers a total of $100,000 since 1998. This month, Emily Dykes of Montville High School and Alexandra Regenbogen of Litchfield High School won the top statewide prose and poetry prizes of $1,000 each.

In April, they also received $1,000 awards for being named county winners in the competition. Their work will be considered for publication in Connecticut Review, the literary journal published by the Connecticut State University System

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