1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Afghan author Rahimi poses with his book Syngue Sabour
Reuters
Afghan author Atiq Rahimi poses with his book 'Syngue Sabour.' Its French publisher says the title is derived from a folk tale about a magic black stone that assumes the distresses of anyone who confides in it.
updated 11/10/2008 12:34:18 PM ET 2008-11-10T17:34:18

An exiled Afghan writer won France's top literary prize on Monday for his novel about the misery of a woman caring for a husband left brain-damaged by a war wound.

Atiq Rahimi was awarded the Goncourt prize for “Syngue Sabour,” Persian for “Stone of Patience,” a title derived from a folk tale about a black stone that absorbs the distress of anyone who confides in it.

“All I can say is: I'm so happy that I'll need many dictionaries, many encyclopedias to find the word or words, the expressions, to express this reaction,” Rahimi told France-2 television.

The 105-year-old Prix Goncourt guarantees literary acclaim and high sales for the winning author. Past recipients include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras.

The Goncourt jury members, following a long-held tradition, announce the winner after voting in a restaurant near Paris' Opera Garnier. Several non-French authors have been among the recent prize recipients — including American author Jonathan Littell for his book “The Kindly Ones” in 2006.

Rahimi's book, written in French, tells the story of a woman whose husband suffers brain damage from a bullet wound, publisher Editions P.O.L said on its Web site. She cares for him and talks to him, but is angry about his sacrifices.

Born in 1962, Rahimi fled Afghanistan for neighboring Pakistan in his early 20s before receiving asylum in France. Also a filmmaker, he received a doctorate in audiovisual communication from Sorbonne University in Paris.

He returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the fall of the radical Islamic regime of the Taliban.

Before his return he had been writing in Persian, one of many languages spoken in ethnically mixed Afghanistan.

But “once I found my roots, my languages, my origins, it was hard to continue in Persian,” he said. “After returning, I wanted to address more important questions — taboos — and the intimacy of the Afghan people, and my native tongue didn't allow for that.”

French gave him "a range of freedom," he said.

A movie based on his 2004 book "Earth and Ashes" was honored at the Cannes Film Festival, and won the Golden Dhow award for best feature film at the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

A second French literary prize, the Renaudot, went to exiled Guinean writer Tierno Monenembo for “Le Roi du Kahel” (The King of Kahel). It is a biography of French explorer Aime Victor Oliviera who sought to bring train service to a slice of West Africa in the late 19th century and set up his own kingdom beneath the official French and British rule in an area that is today part of Guinea.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. TODAY

    Savannah won’t ‘overshare’; rapping medic cracks up anchors

    4/17/2014 8:38:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:38:13
  1. After helpful mom accidentally steals car, rightful owner is found

    When Nekisia Davis asked her mom to move her car and her friends' cars while she went on vacation, she didn't expect that she would instead accidentally move the wrong car, prompting the rightful owner to believe her car was stolen.

    4/17/2014 9:14:16 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T21:14:16
  1. Macy's

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte dives into underwear modeling

    4/17/2014 6:29:23 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T18:29:23
  1. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

    Chelsea Clinton is pregnant! Former first daughter expecting first child this year

    4/17/2014 10:32:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T22:32:13
  1. Edgard Garrido / Reuters

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    4/17/2014 8:24:21 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:24:21
  1. Have you tried an elimination diet? Weigh in on the food fad

    Could eliminating certain foods from your diet prevent allergies, fatigue, or headaches? Some people think so.

    4/17/2014 8:30:46 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:30:46