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Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen wins Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008

  • 8th May 2008
  • Arts Council England

Arts Council England has today announced the winner of The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 in association with Champagne Taittinger.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 has been awarded to the Belgian author Paul Verhaeghen for his novel Omega Minor. Paul Verhaeghen is the first author to have both written and translated the winning title and has therefore won the full £10,000 prize for his work translated from Dutch into English. The prize was presented earlier this evening at a ceremony at the Serpentine Gallery, London. The award, a partnership between Arts Council England and the Independent newspaper, was made in association with Champagne Taittinger.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in the last year.

Moving back and forth between the main stages of the past century, Omega Minor (translated from the Dutch and published by Dalkey Archive Press) is a tale of the survival of the soul. A novel of big ideas, the book’s whirlwind plot is set between Berlin, Boston, Los Alamos and Auschwitz, and takes in neo-Nazis, a physics professor who returns to Potsdam to atone for his sins, an Italian postdoctorate who designs an experiment that will determine the fate of the universe and a Holocaust survivor, who tells his tale to the willing ear of a young psychologist.

Omega Minor is Paul Verhaeghen’s second novel and his first to be translated from Dutch into English. Aside from his writing career, Verhaeghen also works as a cognitive psychologist; his work focuses on memory and the basic aspects of cognitive ageing. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Paul Verhaeghen will be donating his prize money to the American Civil Liberties Union in protest of US foreign policy.

Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature Strategy at Arts Council England said:
"I am delighted Paul Verhaeghen has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It is a highly ambitious novel which tackles some of the major issues of our time. He deserves such recognition in England, not only for his remarkable writing but also for his huge achievement in translating his own work."

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For further information contact:
Eleanor Hutchins / Katy MacMillan-Scott
020 7631 2666 /

Notes for editors:

  • The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize ran previously between 1990 and 1995 and was revived in 2001 with the support of Arts Council England. The winning author and translator will be awarded £5,000 each and a limited edition magnum of Champagne Taittinger at an award ceremony to be held on 8 May 2008 at the Serpentine Gallery, London

  • The judges for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 are: literary editor of The Independent, Boyd Tonkin; writer and teacher, Abdulrazak Gurnah; literary editor of Le Monde, Florence Noiville; Arts Council England Literature Officer, Kate Griffin.

  • Shortlisted titles 2008:

    Castorp by Pawel Huelle, translated by Antonia Lloyd Jones from the Polish, published by Serpent’s Tail
    Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway from the German, published by Quercus
    Gregorius by Bengt Ohlsson, translated by Silvester Mazzarella from the Swedish, published by Portobello Books
    The Model by Lars Saabye Christensen, translated by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian, published by Arcadia Books
    The Way of the Women by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Michiel Heyns from the Afrikaans, published by Little, Brown

  • Previous Winners:

    1991: Immortality by Milan Kundera translated by Peter Kussi (Faber and Faber)
    1992: The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys translated by Patricia Clancy (Quartet)
    1993: The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago translated by Giovanni Pontiero (Harvill)
    1994: The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh translated by Frank Palmos and Phan Thanh Hao (ed.) (Secker and Warburg)
    1995: The Film Explainer by Gert Hoffman translated by Michael Hoffman (Secker and Warburg)
    2001: The Alphonse Courrier Affair by Marta Morazzoni translated by Emma Rose (Harvill)
    2002: Austerlitz by W G Sebald translated by Anthea Bell (Hamish Hamilton)
    2003: The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist translated by Tiina Nunnally (Harvill)
    2004: Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas translated by Anne McLean (Bloomsbury)
    2005: Windows on the World by Frédéric Beigbeder translated by Frank Wynne (Fourth Estate)
    2006: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, translated by Anne Born (Harvill Secker)
    2007: The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn (Arcadia)

  • Publishers wishing to enter books for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2009 should visit Entries (fiction or short stories) must be published in English translation in the UK between 01/01/08 and 31/12/08 and the author must be living at the time that the translation is published

  • Arts Council England works to get great art to more people in more places. We develop and promote the arts across England, acting as an independent body at arm’s length from government. Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.6 billion of public money from government and the National Lottery in supporting the arts. This is the bedrock of support for the arts in England. We believe that the arts have the power to change lives and communities, and to create opportunities for people throughout the country.

  • For further information on Arts Council England, please contact:
    Emma Russell, Press Officer, Arts Council England
    020 7973 6890 /