ABU DHABI // A novel about the Palestinian diaspora and how life in exile compares with living under Israeli rule has won the ninth International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Rabai Al Madhoun was on Tuesday night declared the winner of the most prestigious literary award in the Arab world for his third novel, Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba.
The Palestinian author received US$50,000 (Dh183,600) and a guaranteed English translation of his winning book.
“Palestine rejoices today, as I rejoice,” Al Madhoun said at the awards ceremony in the capital on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
“If only for a year, the Palestinian novel sits on top of the Arab literary scene,” he said.
Al Madhoun had a special message for Haifa, a city that he said “created this novel – a city that has given me the taste, the details, the memory, the stories – the city that has taken me to all the cities of Palestine”.
“How did we let this country go?” he lamented, quoting from his novel, as he received his prize.
Destinies is a pioneering work in terms of content. It is written in four parts, each representing a concerto movement, and focuses on the lives of Palestinians living in exile and those known as the “Arabs of Israel”, the ones who were left behind and chose never to leave their homeland.
The Emirati poet, academic and journalist Amina Thiban, who led the five-person judging panel, praised Destinies for its “passion”.
She said the author had “opened new horizons for the Palestinian novel, whether in terms of structure of the novel or in terms of the content and the way he tugs at every heartstring. “Every novel deserved to win, but we all agreed, as a panel of judges, that this novel deserved it the most.”
The 2016 prize shortlist comprised novels by five men and one woman, presenting fascinating narratives from Palestine, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
The other finalists were Tareq Bakari from Morocco, for his debut novel Numedia; Mohamed Rabie from Egypt for his novel Mercury; Mahmoud Shukair from Palestine for his novel Praise for the Women of the Family; Shahla Ujayli from Syria for her novel A Sky Close to Our Home; and the Lebanese writer George Yaraq for The Guard of the Dead.
All nominees, including the winner, received a $10,000 cash prize.
Known as the Arab Booker, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is one of the most prestigious awards in the region, run with the support of Britain’s Booker Prize Foundation and funded by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. Next year, it will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair begins on Wednesday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and continues until May 3.
(via The National)