Allen Mcinnis, Associated Press
Rawi Hage's novel, "De Niro's Game," tells how war can envelope lives. On Thursday, it won the $155,000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Hage fled to North America from Beirut in the early 1980s.

DUBLIN, Ireland — Beirut-born writer Rawi Hage won one of the world's most lucrative literary prizes Thursday for his debut novel, "De Niro's Game," about two childhood friends who take different paths to survive amid civil war in the Lebanese capital.

Five judges from Ireland, Britain, Spain and the United States selected Hage for the $155,000 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work beat 136 other books from 45 countries, all works published in English in 2006. All the books had been nominated by libraries worldwide.

Hage, 44, fled war-torn Beirut in the early 1980s, studied at the New York Institute of Photography and settled in 1991 in Montreal, where he has built a career as a photographer and essayist.

The judges praised "De Niro's Game" as "an eloquent, forthright and at times beautifully written first novel. Ringing with insight and authenticity, the novel shows how war can envelop lives."

Hage received the prize in a ceremony at Dublin City Hall and declared himself "a fortunate man."

"After a long journey of war, displacement and separation, I feel that I am one of the few wanderers who is privileged enough to have been rewarded, and for that I am very grateful," he said.

Hage said he sought to follow a tradition of authors "who have chosen the painful and costly portrayal of truth over tribal self-righteousness."

The other finalists were "The Attack," by Yasmina Khadra; "Let It Be Morning," by Sayed Kashua; "The Woman Who Waited," by Andrei Makine; "The Sweet & Simple Kind," by Yasmine Gooneratne; "Dreams of Speaking," by Gail Jones; "The Speed of Light," by Javier Cercas; and "Winterwood," by Patrick McCabe — the lone Irish finalist.

The prize is run by Dublin's public library system and financed by a Connecticut-based management consultancy called Improved Management Productivity and Control. IMPAC has its European headquarters in Dublin.

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