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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Debut novel wins richest book prize
Alistair MacLeod
MacLeod works at the University of Windsor, Ontario
A debut novel by a Canadian writer has won the world's richest literary award - the 75,000 Impac prize.

Alistair MacLeod won with his book No Great Mischief, which took him more than 10 years to write.

The novel was described by the judges as "a dignified spiritual examination of heritage, loss and re-beginnings".

Though MacLeod is now a professor of English, he funded his education by working as a fisherman, a logger and a miner.

Dublin
The city of Dublin is home to many literary greats
He beat off stiff competition for the prize from Ireland's Colm Toibin, Russia's Victor Pelevin, Jamaica's Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Scotland's Andrew O'Hagan and Mexico's Silvia Molina.

"There were some splendid books in the running," said MacLeod, speaking by phonelink to the ceremony in Dublin.

"I appreciate this a great deal and I think it is a very splendid award for literature and it is a very great honour for me."

Conflict

No Great Mischief tells the story of a Scot - Calum MacDonald - who sets sail for Canada with his extended family in 1779.

The story is narrated by his descendant Alexander MacDonald and tells the complicated story of immigration and inter-generational conflict.

Macleod now works as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, Ontario, but the vivid descriptions of manual work in No Great Mischief have been attributed to his earlier work experience.

No Great Mischief
Booker winner Margaret Atwood describes MacLeod as "wonderfully talented"
The book was described on publication as "a once in a lifetime masterpiece", by Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper.

The shortlist was compiled by a panel of judges who sifted through nominations by more than 200 libraries in 100 worldwide cities.

The six-member judging panel included Northern Irish poet Medbh McGuckian and London-based writer Fred D'Aguiar.

The Impac award was set up in 1996 by Dublin City Council and the US management company Impac to underline the Irish capital's stature as a literary centre.

Dublin is the birthplace of Nobel literature prize winners George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats and Samuel Beckett.

The only award which pays more than Impac is the Nobel prize, which rewards a broad body of works rather than a single book.

See also:

24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Whitbread victory for Kneale
07 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Atwood wins Booker Prize
16 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Poet gets 75,000 for sea odyssey
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