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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Toibin's Master takes Impac award
Colm Toibin
Colm Toibin was also nominated for the Booker prize
Irish author Colm Toibin has won the world's richest literary prize, the Impac award, with his novel The Master.

Toibin, whose previous books include The Blackwater Lightship, receives a 100,000 euro (68,000) prize.

The Master portrays four years in the life of author Henry James, with Toibin imagining the thoughts and motivations of the famous writer.

Other contenders for the prize included Britain's Jonathan Coe, and Irish author Ronan Bennett.

Toibin said he was trying to create a work that could be enjoyed "even if you hadn't read a word of Henry James".

"It's great just because there are people in the past who have won this prize whose books have really mattered to me," he added.

He cited previous winners Alastair MacLeod, who took the prize in 2001 for No Great Mischief, and last year's recipient Edward Jones, who won with his debut novel, The Known World.

Henry James
Writer Henry James was born in 1843 and died in 1916
"If you just look at who has won it before, you think, 'God, I would really like my book to be in that list'," Toibin said.

The author, who was serving as the Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford University in California when he learnt of the award, said he will return there in 12 months' time.

"I'm going to take a year to get a new novel written. The great advantage of this is it really frees you, the money," he said.

'Beautiful style'

The International Impac Dublin Literary Award is now in its 11th year, and is open to novels written in any language by authors of any nationality, provided the book has been published in, or translated into, English.

Toibin was the favourite to win this year's prize.

One of the judges, author Andrew O'Hagan, said the book was the crowning achievement in Toibin's career.

"It is great to find a novel which exhibits all the great properties of the classic novel," he said.

"It has psychological power, the kind of intimacy and precision that you would expect from the very best fiction.

"Colm Toibin carried a style off that was so particular and so beautiful, we were thrilled to read it and thrilled to give it the award," Mr O'Hagan added.

The Master was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2004, and won the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger for the best foreign novel published in 2005 in France.

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