Afghan-born writer wins France's top literary prize

Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:25pm EST
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - An Afghan-born writer and filmmaker who sought political refuge after fleeing his country in 1984 won France's top literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, on Monday with a novel about the suffering caused in war.

"Syngue sabour" ("The stone of patience"), by Atiq Rahimi narrates the thoughts of a woman at the bedside of her wounded husband "somewhere in Afghanistan or elsewhere."

"At first, she prays to bring her husband back to life but she begins to talk about herself, her suffering and her secrets and little by little, she transforms her husband into this stone of patience," he told France 2 television.

As it is every year, the prize, worth a symbolic 10 euros ($12.90) in cash but vastly more in publicity-generated sales, was announced to a crowd of journalists jammed into the foyer of the Drouant restaurant in central Paris.

The novel, written in a style described as "sober and alive" by Culture Minister Christine Albanel, was Rahimi's first in French, a language he first learned at school in Kabul before completing his studies with a doctorate from the Sorbonne.

He has published a number of other works in Farsi, including the novel Earth and Ashes, subsequently turned into a film that won an award at the 2004 Cannes film festival.

($1=.7754 Euro)

(Reporting by Sophie Louet; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Matthew Jones)

 
<p>Afghan author Atiq Rahimi poses with his book Syngue Sabour after winning the Goncourt Literary prize in Paris, November 10, 2008. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer</p>