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Japan's Murakami wins Kafka prize

Japanese writer and novelist Haruki Murakami, whose sometimes disorienting tales explore dark areas of the soul, has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize.

Japanese writer and novelist Haruki Murakami, whose sometimes disorienting tales explore dark areas of the soul, has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize.

He received the prestigious award, named after the Czech-born author of The Trial and The Metamorphosis, in Prague on Monday.

An international jury chose Murakami as the winner of the sixth annual Kafka prize, whichpreviously has been awarded toPhilip Roth, Elfriede Jelinek and Harold Pinter.

The prize is awarded to "authors whose works of exceptional artistic qualities are found to appeal to readers regardless of their origin, nationality and culture, just as the works of Franz Kafka," according to the Franz Kafka Society in Prague.

The prize includes $10,000 US and a statue of Kafka by Czech artist Jaroslav Rona.

Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and published his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, in 1979.

His experimental novel Norwegian Wood brought himinternational fame and a huge literary following.

Formerly theowner of a jazz bar, he gave up that business and lived in the U.S. and Europe for a few years.

He returned to Japan in the 1990s and wrote non-fiction, including an account from victims of the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

Now Japan's most popular living writer, he is also author of Kafka on the Shore, which features entwined stories ofa 15-year-old boy on an Oedipal quest and a troubled elderly man.

It was listed as one of the top 10 books of 2005 by the New York Times.

His works have been translated into35 languages, including Czech.