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Banville gets top book award

Ireland's leading novelist John Banville has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize for 2011, one of the most prestigious international literary awards.

The annual Kafka Prize is awarded for "work of exceptional literary creation by a contemporary author" and previous winners include American writer Philip Roth and British playwright Harold Pinter.

The international jury this year selected Banville from a list of 15 candidates. The prize giving ceremony will take place in Prague in October when Banville will be presented with a bronze statuette (a scaled-down model of the monument to Franz Kafka in Prague) and $10,000 (€7,000).

The Wexford-born writer has been highly productive in recent years, with two acclaimed novels, The Sea, which won the Man Booker prize in 2005, and The Infinities in 2009, which some critics said should have won him the Booker again.

In addition to this, Banville has been writing more popular crime novels – using the pen name Benjamin Black – three of which have appeared over the past few years. Coincidentally, the fourth Benjamin Black thriller, A Death in Summer, again featuring a pathologist called Quirke in 1950s Dublin, appears next week.

Asked yesterday if thought his work was Kafkaesque -- Kafka was famous for his view of the world as absurd and threatening -- Banville said he was wearing his Benjamin Black hat this week because the new Black book is out next week.

"Speaking as Benjamin Black, all I can say is that John Banville and Franz Kafka deserve each other," he said.

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