Author John Irving wins literary peace award

CINCINNATI (AP) – The author of novels such as The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules that examine social issues is this year’s winner of a lifetime achievement award celebrating literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding, organisers said yesterday.

Dayton Literary Peace Prize officials chose John Irving, whose first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published 50 years ago when he was 26, for the Richard C Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. It’s named for the late US diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnia peace accords reached in Ohio.

Sharon Rab, founder and chairwoman of the peace prize foundation, said Irving’s books often show “the tragedy of a lack of empathy and sympathy for our fellow humans … through books – especially Irving’s books – readers learn to understand and identify with people different from themselves”.

Irving’s all-time best-selling novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, examines faith, fate and social justice through the intertwined lives of two boyhood friends, often using humour to illuminate deep topics.

The National Book Award-winning The World According to Garp was made into a movie starring the late Robin Williams, and Irving won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie version of The Cider House Rules, which deals with issues including abortion.

Irving said in a statement that if a prize helps bring attention to his subject matter, he welcomes it.

At 76, Irving is working on his 15th novel, a ghost story titled Darkness as a Bride. His other writings have included the short story Interior Space, recognised with an O Henry Award in 1981.

The award carries a USD10,000 prize. Previous winners include Studs Terkel, Taylor Branch, Gloria Steinem, and Elie Wiesel.

Irving and winners of fiction and nonfiction competitions will be honoured on October 28 in Dayton.

John Irving speaks at a book discussion for his novel Avenue of Mysteries at Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami. – AP