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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Patchett grabs top literary award
The 1996 siege in Lima inspired Patchett
The 1996 siege in Lima inspired Patchett
Ann Patchett has won the richest annual US literary prize for fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Award, for her novel Bel Canto.

She beat National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections, Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon, Claire Messud's The Hunters, and Manil Suri's The Death of Vishnu for the $15,000 (10,400) award.

Bel Canto tells the tale of a terrorist siege at a lavish South American party.

It feels much more like luck than achievement, like finding money on the sidewalk

Anne Patchett
Ms Patchett said the inspiration for the book was the December 1996 siege of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, by members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

Ms Patchett said she was "thrilled" with her prize.

She said: "It feels much more like luck than achievement, like finding money on the sidewalk rather than coming up with a really clever patent."

In her book, 57 men and one woman are held in the vice-president's mansion in an unnamed country.

Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett: Also nominated for Orange prize
Ms Patchett said Bel Canto is more ambitious than her previous three books and more heroic.

"It was more ambitious in terms of its narrative structure. I always wanted to write a really sweeping omniscient third-person narrative."

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation, named after author William Faulkner and affiliated with the international writers' organization PEN, was established in 1980 by writers to honour their peers.

In making the selections, judges David Guterson, Jane Hamilton and Sylvia Watanabe reviewed 325 novels and short story collections from 85 publishing houses.

Past winners have included John Edgar Wideman, EL Doctorow and Don DeLillo - last year Philip Roth won with his novel The Human Stain.

Patchett and the other four writers nominated this year will be honoured at a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington on 11 May.

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