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Australia’s Richard Flanagan wins Booker fiction prize

Jill Lawless Associated Press

LONDON – Australian writer Richard Flanagan won the Booker Prize on Tuesday with a visceral book about wartime brutality and its aftermath – a novel the head of the judging team said was as powerful as a kick in the stomach.

Flanagan drew on his father’s experiences as a World War II prisoner of the Japanese for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” which centers on the Burma Death Railway, built with forced labor at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.

Named after a classic work of Japanese literature, the book is dedicated to Flanagan’s father – referred to by his prisoner number, 335 – who died at the age of 98 shortly after his son finished the manuscript.

Flanagan is the third Australian to take the award, after Thomas Keneally and Peter Carey, and his victory disappointed those who hoped to see an American win in the first year U.S. authors are eligible.

Flanagan, 53, was given his trophy and 50,000 pound ($80,000) winner’s check by Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a black-tie dinner in London’s medieval Guildhall.

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