Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Murakami, School Builder Split $30,000; `Carnegie' Wins $50,000

By Edward Nawotka

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- A short-story collection by the Japanese surrealist Haruki Murakami and a true tale of adventure and school building in Pakistan and Afghanistan by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin were named winners of the 2007 Kiriyama Prize this morning in San Francisco.

Created in 1996 to honor books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia, the prize is sponsored by Pacific Rim Voices, a division of the San Francisco-based Kiriyama Pacific Rim Institute. Each winning book receives $15,000.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Kiriyama Prize manager Jeannine Stronach said that she took particular pleasure in Mortenson's win.

``While it is already widely acknowledged that Murakami writes extraordinary fiction,'' she said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, ``my hope is that by giving the award to Mortenson it might also in some way bring additional attention his meaningful work at the Central Asia Institute.''

Mortenson and Relin's ``Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time'' (Penguin) is an account of how Mortenson, a nurse, was inspired to found his nonprofit Central Asia Institute after failing to reach the summit of K2 and taking refuge in a remote Pakistani village. Mortenson survived kidnapping and defied death threats while trying to offer education to children, especially girls, in the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan and the Pamir and Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan. He built more than 50 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bizarre Weather

Murakami's ``Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman'' (Knopf), which won in the fiction category, features an ``ice man'' who seduces a lonely woman with ``white clouds'' of words that hang in the air ``like comic book captions.'' The volume's two dozen tales include an assortment of bizarre weather phenomena, nightmares, anthropomorphized animals and a doppelganger.

The book was chosen over four other finalists, including Kiran Desai's ``The Inheritance of Loss'' (Grove), which has already won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction.

The New-York Historical Society has awarded its $50,000 American Book Prize to David Nasaw for ``Andrew Carnegie'' (Penguin), an 896-page biography of the Gilded Age steel magnate and philanthropist. Roger Hertog, chairman of the board of the society, called the book ``magisterial'' and said the example set by Carnegie's philanthropy ``is remarkably relevant to us today.''