Saudi Public Prosecution approves establishment of intellectual property body News

Saudi writer among six authors shortlisted for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

RIYADH: Six novels have been shortlisted for the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the winner of which will be revealed during a ceremony on April 28 in Abu Dhabi.

The chosen works are: “Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009” by Saudi author Raja Alem; “Gambling on the Honor of Lady Mitsy” by Ahmed Al-Morsi from Egypt; “The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem” by Palestinian writer Osama Al-Eissa; “A Mask, the Color of the Sky” by Basim Khandaqji, who is also Palestinian; “Suleima’s Ring” by Rima Bali from Syria; and “The Mosaicist” by Moroccan author Eissa Nasiri.

Nabil Suleiman, chairperson of the 2024 judging panel, announced the nominated titles in Riyadh on Wednesday. He was joined by other members of the jury, including: Hammour Ziada, a Sudanese writer and journalist; Sonia Nimr, a Palestinian writer, researcher and academic; Frantisek Ondras, a Czech academic and translator; Mohammed Shoair, an Egyptian critic and journalist; Yasir Suleiman, the chair of the event’s board of trustees; and Fleur Montanaro, the prize’s administrator. The competition is organized in collaboration with the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission.

“This is the first time in the history of the prize that a novel from (literally) behind the walls of an Israeli jail reaches out to readers on the other side,” said Yasir Suleiman.

He was referring to Basim Khandaqji, who was imprisoned in 2004 at the age of 21. According to a biography of the writer on the contest’s website, while in jail he registered with Al-Quds University and completed a course in political science, which included a thesis on Israeli studies.

In an interview with the organizers of the competition last month, the author’s brother, Youssef, said: “He based his (shortlisted) novel on his reading of research and studies about Palestinian history, including eyewitness accounts of some of the prisoners inside and outside prisons, especially the Palestinians living inside Israel.

“He is currently a prisoner inside the Israeli colonial occupier prisons, and there has been no means of communicating with him for the past four months. We hope and pray that he will be released as soon as possible.”

Yasir Suleiman said the shortlisted works “dig deep into the past to excavate the present” and cover “a variety of narratives of places, times and demography.” The books explore diverse themes, he added, including “the bond of the ancient past, with its intertwined paths, with a present crashing on its beaches with grinding waves of fragmentation, spaces of vanishing hopes in worlds that overstate what has come together.”

Nabil Suleiman said: “The narratives on this list are characterized by in-depth fictional digging in history, in such a way that the recent and distant past intertwine with the present and the future, and in which various civilizations, human creations and conflicts interact as well.”

The specific themes of the novels include the experience of war, breakdown of the family, questions of identity, oppression, cruelty, and the individual and collective human longing for freedom and justice. he added.

“Their rich creative worlds are not limited to their localities but span the globe, highlighting common struggles,” he said. “Their visions and aesthetic expressions are diverse, tinged with self-awareness and imaginative verve.”

Shoair, the judging panel member, told Arab News that Arabic novels are experiencing a period of diversity in terms of styles, use of language, and other techniques.

“Many Arab novelists are interested in history as a forward-looking, imaginative adventure to create a new and distinctive fictional form,” he said.

Organizers of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction say the aim of the competition is to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic literature and grow the global audience for it by translating and publishing shortlisted works in other languages. Each of the shortlisted writers receive a $10,000 award, and the winner gets a $50,000 prize.

The English translation of the winning novel in 2022, “Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table” by Mohammed Alnaas, will be published this year.

Leave a Comment