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Yves Bonnefoy gets Franz Kafka Prize

Yves Bonnefoy, Leading French poet, was awarded Franz Kafka Prize, a prestigious literary prize, in the Czech capital on Tuesday.

An international jury that included prominent German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki and British publisher John Calder selected Bonnefoy in March to win the annual Franz Kafka Prize awarded by the Prague-based Franz Kafka Society.

The award - a small statue of Kafka by Czech artist Jaroslav Rona and a cash prize of US$10,000 (€6,950) - was established by the society in 2001.

The society was founded shortly after the collapse of communism in 1989 to promote the legacy of Kafka and other German and Jewish writers from Prague.

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," the society said.

The presentation took place at Prague's City Hall. Bonnefoy said in his speech that he was "proud of this sign of sympathy I receive from the country, the culture and the city for which I and many other of my fellow citizens have great admiration and affection."

He said that Kafka for him was "not only one of the greatest representatives of our modernity but also one of those who had the strongest influence on my thinking about poetry."

Bonnefoy, 84, is regarded as one of the most influential French poets of the second half of the 20th century. He is also an influential essayist and the pre-eminent French translator of the work of William Shakespeare.

Some of his major poetry collections, including "On the Motion and Immobility of Douve," "Words in Stone" and "The Curved Planks" have been translated into Czech.

Bonnefoy is the seventh recipient of the award. Past winners include Philip Roth of the United States, Ivan Klima of the Czech Republic and Peter Nadas of Hungary. In 2004 and 2005, Austrian novelist, playwright and poet Elfriede Jelinek and British playwright Harold Pinter were chosen, respectively, for the prize shortly before they won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Japanese Haruki Murakami received the award last year.

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