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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
French author upsets the odds
Mr Houellebecq won the prestigious Prix Novembre as well
Houellebecq won the prestigious Prix Novembre as well
French author Michel Houellebecq has caused a surprise by winning the world's richest book prize, the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

The 44-year-old novelist and poet won the 100,000 euros (62,500) top prize for his work Atomised.

He beat off the favourites, Peter Carey's True History Of the Kelly Gang and Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, both winners of the Booker Prize.

Houellebecq's book was translated from the original French by Frank Wynne, who also receives a share of the winning prize money.

Jury described Atomised as 'wondrously passionate'
Jury described Atomised as 'wondrously passionate'
The judging panel described Atomised, as "a bleak yet often humorous portrayal of modern life as viewed by the novel's two protagonists - half-brothers with wildly different personalities seeking wildly different goals".

They added: "The novel is filled with energy, mordant humour and wondrously passionate excess."

Atomised has already won the prestigious Prix Novembre in Mr Houellebecq's native France.

He has written two other novels, Whatever (Extension du Domaine de la Lutte) and Platform.

In 1999 he collaborated on the screen adaptation of Whatever with Philippe Harel who directed the film.

Talent

Houellebecq, who now lives in Ireland, does not restrict his talents to just the written medium.

Two years ago he recorded his debut album Presence Humaine, where he sang his poetry to the music of Bertrand Burgalat.

Margaret Atwood
Atwood's novel was one of the favourites
The Impac award is unique as the original nominations are made by public libraries worldwide.

The shortlist was chosen by an international panel of writers including the UK's Michael Holroyd and Irish novelist Jennifer Johnston.

The panel was chaired by US historian Allen Weinstein.

The other works short-listed were Michael Collins' The Keepers of Truth, The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt, The Years with Laura Diaz written by Carlos Fuentes and Antoni Libera's Madame.

The prize will be awarded on 15 June at a dinner attended by the Irish president, Mary McAleese.

Previous winners of the Impac prize include Remembering Babylon by David Malouf and, in 2001, No Great Mischief by Alistair Macleod.

See also:

13 May 02 | Arts
The Impac's reclusive winner
07 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Atwood wins Booker Prize
18 Sep 01 | Arts
Miller's 'ingenious' novels
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