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Irish writer wins richest fiction prize

world Updated: Jun 16, 2011 13:22 IST

AFP
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Irish author Colm McCann has won the $ 145,000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world's biggest cash prize for a work of fiction, organisers said on Wednesday.

McCann scooped the award for his novel "Let the Great World Spin", set against the true story of French high wire artist Philippe Petit's walk between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre in 1974.

He beat off competition from 161 other titles to win the prize which is unique in that it receives its nominations from public libraries around the world.

This year 166 libraries from 43 countries took part and the final shortlist involved ten novels from the US, Australia, Canada, and Ireland.

The novel deals with the lives of a series of characters in New York as the daredevil high wire walk goes on above their heads.

The judging panel described it as a "remarkable literary work, a genuinely 21st century novel that speaks to its time but is not enslaved by it".

"Its beguiling nature leaves the reader with as much uncertainty as we feel throughout our lives, but therein lies the power of fiction and of this book in particular."

Patron of the award, Dublin lord mayor Gerry Breen said it was "wonderful and fitting to have a Dublin winner in the year that Dublin was awarded UNESCO City of Literature designation."

Other novels shortlisted for the prize were "Brooklyn" by Colm Toibin, "The Vagrants" by Yiyun Li, "Jasper Jones" by Craig Silvey, "Love and Summer" by William Trevor, "Little Bird of Heaven" by Joyce Carol Oates, "Galore" by Michael Crummey, "After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice" by Evie Wyld, "Ransom" by David Malouf and "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver.

The only literary award which pays more than IMPAC is the Nobel Prize, which rewards a body of work rather than a single book.

First awarded in 1996, the prize -- sponsored by a Florida-based management productivity company whose European headquarters is in Dublin -- was established to underline the Irish capital's status as a literary centre.