Ibrahim Nasrallah wins 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

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Ibrahim Nasrallah wins 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction
Ibrahim Nasrallah

The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah has been announced the winner of the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). The novel, published by Arab Scientific Publishers, was named as this year’s winner by the Chair of Judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, at a ceremony at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi.

In addition to winning US$ 50,000, funding will be provided for the English translation of The Second War of the Dog, and Nasrallah can expect an increase in book sales and international recognition. Saafin says, “The Second War of the Dog is a masterful vision of a dystopian future in a nameless country, using fantasy and science fiction techniques. With humour and insight, it exposes the tendency towards brutality inherent in society, imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible, even the buying and selling of human souls.”

The novel focuses on the corrupt main character, Rashid, who changes from an opponent of the regime to a materialistic and unscrupulous extremist. Nasrallah reveals the intrinsic savagery in human beings, as he describes a futuristic world where greed intensifies and human values and ethics are ignored.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of IPAF Trustees, says, “Ibrahim Nasrallah’s novel paints a chilling picture of humanity in all its destructive potential. Without a moral compass, the protagonist lets go of the normal bounds that constrain human behavior. Nasrallah draws the reader into this world from different vantage points, using crisp language in which humor makes the moral burden of relating to the main character “bearable”, or just so. His win is an accolade well-deserved.”

Nasrallah has worked as a journalist and for the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. Since 2006, he has been a full-time writer and has acted as a mentor to emerging writers at IPAF’s annual nadwa (writers’ workshop), in 2014 and 2016. Four of his novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including Time of White Horses, which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2009; and Lanterns of the King of Galilee, longlisted in 2013. In a 2012 review of Time of White Horses, the New Statesman praised Nasrallah’s “intensely eloquent voice [that] gives Western audiences an insight into the lives of the marginalised”.

The Second War of the Dog was chosen by the IPAF judges as the best work of fiction published between July 2016 and June 2017 from 124 entries from 14 countries. Alongside chair Ibrahim Al Saafin, who is a Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright, the 2018 judges were Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet; Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist; Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist; and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.

The five shortlisted finalists, Amir Tag Elsir, Aziz Mohammed, Shahad Al Rawi, Walid Shurafa and Dima Wannous were also honoured at the ceremony, each receiving US$ 10,000. Ahead of the announcement, the shortlisted authors took part in an event at the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi hosted by the Emirates Writers Union and NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, and chaired by Sudanese novelist Ann El Safi. Walid Shurafa also spoke about his shortlisted novel Heir of the Tombstones at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery in connection with an exhibition Permanent Temporariness, which focuses on the lives of Palestinian refugees.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi). For further information about the Prize, please visit www.arabicfiction.org or follow the Prize on Facebook @InternationalPrizeforArabicFiction