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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 August, 2004, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Book festival honour for author
Dame Muriel Spark
Dame Muriel Spark was given a literary award
Scots novelist Dame Muriel Spark has been presented with a major new literary award at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The Edinburgh-born author of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie received the book festival's first Enlightenment Award.

The award has been set up to celebrate the festival's 21st anniversary.

Dame Muriel, making her first appearance at the festival, was the inaugural winner of the award for her contribution to world literature.

Fame and fortune

The Enlightenment Award will be presented annually to a major writer, selected by the book festival director and a panel of judges.

Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: "The world's greatest authors and thinkers have visited the book festival over the past 21 years, and we wanted to create an award which would confer a lasting and special honour on some of our most distinguished guests.

"In this special year, it was very clear indeed that the inaugural winner should be Dame Muriel Spark, Scotland's greatest living writer, for her outstanding work over the decades and the respect and admiration in which she is held across the globe.

"We were overjoyed when she accepted. We very much hope that in years to come, the roll-call of winners of the Enlightenment Award will continue to represent some of the most influential and inspirational writers in the world. "

Dame Muriel was born in Edinburgh in 1918, the only daughter of a Jewish father and an Episcopalian mother.

Maggie Smith in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was made into an Oscar-winning film

She was educated at the city's James Gillespie's High School for Girls.

Her first novel was not published until 1957 when The Comforters was released.

However, within a very short time, fame and fortune followed.

Dame Muriel, who had been living in Africa and London, returned to Edinburgh in order to write The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, a highly autobiographical novel based around her own schooldays.

The novel eventually become a Broadway play and an Oscar-winning film, starring Dame Maggie Smith.

In later years, Dame Muriel has lived in Tuscany.

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