The Richest Book Prize

President Mary McAleese presents to Michael Houllebecq.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2002

The winner of the annual International IMPAC Dublin literary award was announced on May 13 in Dublin as Michel Houellebecq for his novel Atomised. In this sixth year since the award’s inception, nominees included well–known authors and Booker Prize winners, Margaret Atwood for The Blind Assassin, Peter Carey for The True History o the Kelly Gang, and Irish writer Michael Collins for The Keepers of Truth.

The award, established by Dublin City Civic Charter in 1996, is sponsored by IMMPAC, the global U.S.–based productivity enhancement giant, whose chairman, James B. Irwin (a member of Irish America’s Top 100), is credited with being the driving force behind the award.

With prize–money of 100,000 euros, the award is the world’s richest book prize, Houellebecq, whose novel was written in French and was translated into English, is obliged to give 25 per cent of his winnings to his translator in recognition of the contribution that a good translator makes. The judging panel, which included well-known British writer Michael Holroyd and Irish novelist Jennifer Johnston, 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 humor, and wondrously passionate excess.” Houellebecq, 44, who lives reclusively in County Cork, started his writing career a mere eight years ago. ♦

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