8 May 08 | Chad W. Post

Just announced today that Flemish author Paul Verhaeghen has won the Independent foreign fiction prize for his novel Omega Minor.

Moving back and forth through the last century, Omega Minor, translated from the Dutch, is a story of love and death on the grandest possible scale. Its whirlwind plot takes in Berlin, Boston, Los Alamos and Auschwitz, and characters including neo-Nazis, a physics professor who returns to Potsdam to atone for his sins, a Holocaust survivor going over his trauma with a young psychologist and an Italian postgraduate who designs an experiment that will determine the fate of the universe.

Verhaeghen’s an interesting guy. Not only is he a Pynchon-esque author, but he’s also a cognitive psychologist. And translated the immense Omega Minor himself, thus taking home both halves of the £10,000 award that is supposed to be split between author and translator.

(Well, not exactly “taking home”:

“It’s always amazing when people like your work, and it’s absolutely amazing when four leading intellectuals say it’s the best book they’ve read all year,” Verhaeghen said after learning of his victory. However, while he is delighted to receive the endorsement, he has decided not to take the money. “Part of this book is about the rise and aftermath of Fascism in Nazi Germany. And it’s hard to miss the analogous things happening in the US. I refused the Flemish Culture award after I realised around $5,000 (£2,555) of the winnings would go to the US treasury. So this time, I decided to give the money to the American Civil Liberties Union, which works for civil rights. The money won’t be liable for tax.”)

Unfortunately, this book hasn’t gotten a ton of attention in the mainstream U.S. media, although Michael Orthofer wrote a very thoughtful, praising review of it some time back.

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