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First-time author wins richest British literary prize

Associated Press

LONDON — The Australian author of the book Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall has won Britain's richest literary prize for nonfiction.

Anna Funder was awarded the $59,000 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction this week. It is the former lawyer and TV producer's first book.

In awarding the prize, the judges said that Funder unearths "extraordinary tales from the underbelly" of the former East Germany. The prize is sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Funder defeated American author Bill Bryson for his best seller A Short History of Nearly Everything and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum's Gulag: A History of the Soviet State. Both had been short-listed for the prize, which celebrates originality and diversity in contemporary nonfiction publishing.

Funder, who lives in Sydney, visits the man who painted the line that became the Berlin Wall, meets the woman accused of potentially sparking a conflict by trying to cross the border and gets drunk with the "Mik Jegger" of the East.

The judges said the book contained "wonderful flashes of humor, despite the sobering subject matter."

"This is an intimate portrait, both touching and funny, of survivors caught between their desire to forget and the need to remember."

The other short-list books included: Aidan Hartley's The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War, Tom Holland for Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic and Jonathan Bate's biography of poet John Clare

Impac Literary Award Goes to a Moroccan

New York Times

A Moroccan author, Tahar Ben Jelloun, was named the winner yesterday of the $120,000 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, the world's richest prize for a single work of fiction published in English.

Mr. Ben Jelloun won for his fact-based novel, "This Blinding Absence of Light" (New Press, 2002), about a soldier imprisoned in a desert concentration camp after taking part in an abortive coup against King Hassan II of Morocco in 1971. The book was written in French, and Mr. Ben Jelloun will receive three-fourths of the prize money, with the rest going to Linda Coverdale, who translated the novel.

Mr. Ben Jelloun, born in Fez in 1944, has lived since 1961 in France, where he won the Prix Goncourt in 1987 for his novel "The Sacred Night." The Impac Dublin Literary Award is financed by Impac, a Florida-based management company owned by James B. Irwin Sr., who wanted to note Ireland's contributions to world literature. It is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries, and nominations are made by public libraries around the world.

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