Belgian author Paul Verhaeghen won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for “Omega Minor,” a sweeping novel that explores the dark legacies of World War II in a plot that runs from Auschwitz to Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Verhaeghen, a cognitive psychologist who teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, pledged to donate his cash award of 10,000 pounds ($19,550) to the American Civil Liberties Union to protest U.S. foreign policies, according to a statement by the Arts Council England, which supports the prize in partnership with London’s Independent newspaper.
The author has repeatedly criticized the U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq and its treatment of detainees. The ACLU has called for the U.S. to shut down the facility where terrorism suspects are detained at the military base in Guantanamo Bay.
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is designed to honor living authors of outstanding works of fiction that have been translated into English from other languages and published in the U.K. in the last year. The winning author and translator take home 5,000 pounds each and a magnum of Champagne Taittinger. Verhaeghen won both cash prizes because he translated the work himself from the original Dutch version. Previous winners have included Milan Kundera. The prize was presented this evening at a ceremony at the Serpentine Gallery in London.