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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 20:55 GMT
'Unread' author spurns book award
A Moroccan writer awarded his country's top literary prize has rejected it, on the grounds that only a tiny few of his fellow citizens may get to read it.

Ahmed Bouzfour pointed out that his collection of short stories, Qounqous, had had a print run of only 1,000 in a nation of some 30 million.

"The very low literacy rate in Morocco is the main cause of my decision," he said, adding that he was ashamed.

Morocco launched a campaign against illiteracy in October last year.

Much of the population, particularly women and children, cannot read or write.

Mr Bouzfour said he hoped one day to receive a prize for his writing from a "government that wants and is able to eradicate illiteracy, to send all the country's children to school and ensure that they don't end up in the streets".

King Mohammed VI said last year that more than 12 million Moroccans could not read or write, including one in three children, and 2 million children below the age of five had no access to schooling.

Mr Bouzfour said he had not stopped to ask how much prize money was involved in his award - about $8,000.

However, the BBC's Pascale Harter reports from Rabat that his protest against the government will come at some personal cost, as writers in Morocco cannot hope to make much of a living with such a small market for books.

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03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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