Cover Stories: Commonwealth Writers' Prize; Time Warner Book Group; Jim Wallis

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The Independent Culture

Zadie Smith may have missed out on other prizes with On Beauty, but this week it picked up the regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the best book from "Eurasia" - a victory that puts her in contention for the main award, announced on 14 March in Melbourne. The regional first-book award, which Smith won for White Teeth, went to Donna Daley-Clarke for Lazy Eye. And there was consolation for Tash Aw, disappointed at the Whitbread but now winner (for The Harmony Silk Factory) of the first-book prize for South-East Asia/ South Pacific.



* Out of the blue on Monday came news of the purchase of the UK and US operations of Time Warner Book Group, including Little, Brown and Abacus. The buyer is Hachette Livre, part of France's giant Lagardère Group, which entered the UK trade with its acquisition of Orion and, in 2004, added to its portfolio by buying Hodder Headline. In a trade that usually leaks like a cabinet minister, the deal had been a well-kept secret, but it has been welcomed by all. Hachette Livre, with Hodder's Tim Hely Hutchinson as UK chief exec, had made no secret of its desire for a New York base. When, in January, Time Warner said it would be happy to sell its book group, the top brass from Paris and London wasted no time in booking their flights. The $537m. deal makes Hachette the first French publisher to move into the US and, at a stroke, the world's third largest group, after Pearson and Bertelsmann. It will also be the biggest in the UK, with a share of 16 per cent compared to 14 per cent for Random House.

* Since September 2001, "radical" has become a pejorative adjective when applied to clerics. Of course, Martin Luther King might also have been called a radical cleric, and in many ways Jim Wallis is King's natural heir. The US evangelist has been carrying on King's work, speaking out against segregation and sitting in against the Iraq war. His book, God's Politics, is published here by Lion, and Wallis arrives in Britain for a tour that will include an appearance on Today (13 February). The founder of Sojourners, a Christian organisation for social justice, Wallis has been arrested many times. His book asks "since when did believing in God and having moral values make you pro-war, pro-rich and pro-Republican?"

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