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Female Iraqi blogger nominated for UK book prize

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Mar 27 (Reuters) The anonymous female author of an Iraqi ''blog'', whose Web site entitled ''Baghdad Burning'' mixes humour, despair and acerbic political commentary, has been nominated for a major literary prize in Britain.

Known only as Riverbend, the self-styled ''Girl Blog from Iraq'' has been sending regular dispatches since August 2003.

In her first entry, she wrote: ''I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway''.

Soon afterwards she explained how she lost her job in a computer software company when it was deemed too dangerous for her to go to work.

The online diary was collected and issued by Marion Boyars Publishers in 2005, and that book has made it on to the longlist of the annual Samuel Johnson Prize for contemporary non-fiction, the winner of which wins 30,000 pounds.

A spokeswoman for the publisher, which knows Riverbend's identity, said a second edition of ''Baghdad Burning'' was due to be released in paperback in April or May this year.

In her latest entry on www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com dated March 18, 2006, Riverbend reflects on how Iraq has changed since the U.S.-led invasion in March, 2003.

Like many others, she is most concerned about the growing divide between the Sunni and Shi'ite sects of Islam, a divide she says barely existed in her childhood. It is now fuelling violence that has been described by some as civil war.

''The thing most worrisome about the situation now, is that discrimination based on sect has become so commonplace,'' Riverbend wrote.

''Even the most cynical war critics couldn't imagine the country being this bad three years after the war ... God protect us from the fourth year.'' Also on the longlist of 19 titles are Alan Bennett's ''Untold Stories'', ''Bad Faith'' by Carmen Callil, ''The Cold War'' by John Lewis Gaddis and Jane Glover's ''Mozart's Women''.

The winner of the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize will be announced in London on June 14.

REUTERS SY PC1742

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