Houellebecq wins top French book prize

French novelist Michel Houellebecq Michel Houellebecq's book satirises the art world in Paris

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The controversial writer Michel Houellebecq has won France's top literary award, the Goncourt Prize, for his book The Map and the Territory.

He is known for frank - some would argue brutal - descriptions of sexuality and alienation.

One of France's best-known authors internationally, he also wrote the books Atomised and Platform.

Houellebecq, 52, won a court case in 2002 against Muslim groups who accused him of insulting Islam.

He said he felt contempt for Islam, but he was cleared of inciting racial hatred.

The Map and the Territory, first published in French in September, satirises the Paris art world, telling the story of a misanthropic artist who achieves critical and commercial success by photographing old Michelin maps.

It also features a badly dressed, drunken writer by the name of Michel Houellebecq who becomes the victim of a grisly murder.

"Among all the people who are going to discover my books thanks to this prize, I hope I won't disappoint them and they'll be happy," the author told French media.

He has twice come close to winning the Goncourt Prize before, in 1998 and 2005.

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