Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Afghan writer wins French prize

Atiq Rahimi
The film version of Earth and Ashes won an award in Cannes

Afghan-born writer Atiq Rahimi has won the Prix Goncourt - France's top literary award - for his novel Syngue Sabour, or Stone of Patience.

It is the first novel written in French Rahimi, who is best known for his 2002 book Earth and Ashes, which was turned into a film.

His latest book tells the story of an Afghan woman seeking liberation from social and religious oppression.

"I write about Afghan women and all the world's women," the 46-year-old said.

"I'm not making a distinction between an Afghan woman repressed under her burka and other women.

"Afghan women, like all women, have desires, dreams and hopes as well as strengths and weaknesses," he added.

Rahimi, whose previous works were written in Persian, was born in Kabul in 1962.

He fled Afghanistan in the 1980s, first to Pakistan and then to France, where he studied film and settled.

The announcement was made at the Drouant restaurant in central Paris.

The novel was described as "sober and alive" by French culture minister Christine Albanel.

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