Abdelouahab Aissaoui wins International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Wins for its stylistic brilliance

118
Arabic Fiction
The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui wins the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui was today announced as the winner of the 13th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). The novel, published by Dar Mim, was named as this year’s winner by the Chair of Judges, Muhsin al-Musawi. In addition to winning USD $50,000, funding will be provided for the English translation of The Spartan Court, and Abdelouahab Aissaoui can expect an increase in book sales and international recognition.

Muhsin al-Musawi, chair of the 2020 Judging Panel says, “The Spartan Court stands out for its stylistic brilliance. It is polyphonic – with multiple voices telling the story. Readers gain a multi-layered insight into the historical occupation of Algeria and, from this, the conflicts of the entire Mediterranean region, with characters embodying different interests and intersecting visions. The novel invites the reader to gain a greater understanding of life under occupation and the different forms of resistance that grow against it. With its deep, historical narrative structure, the novel does not live in the past, but rather it challenges the reader to question present reality.”

Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, chair of the Board of Trustees says, “The Spartan Court is a captivating tale, a tale of many voices, truths and falsehoods. It goes back in history to excavate the past and permeate the present with intertwined narratives that keep the reader glued to its enchanting characters and their tortuous fortunes. Its many bittersweet vignettes, and their rootedness in place and time draw the reader to worlds with myriad tones of colour, sound and smell. Abdelouahab Aissaoui has given us a work to celebrate and remember during these anguished times. For this we are grateful to him.”

The Spartan Court follows the interconnected lives of five characters in Algiers from 1815 to 1833. The first, Dupond, is a French journalist covering the colonial campaign against Algeria, and the second, Caviard, is a former soldier in Napoleon’s army who finds himself a prisoner in the city and later becomes a planner for the campaign. The other three Algerian characters have different attitudes to the Ottoman and French colonial powers. Ibn Mayyar thinks that politics is a means of building relationships with the Ottomans and even the French, whilst Hamma al-Sallaoui believes that revolution is the only means of achieving change. The fifth character, Douja, is suspended somewhere between all these: she witnesses the transformation of Algiers helplessly and is forced to become a part of it, for one must live according to the city’s rules, or leave.

Abdelouahab Aissaoui is an Algerian novelist, born in Djelfa, Algeria, in 1985. He graduated in Electromechanical Engineering from Zayan Ashour University in Djelfa and works as a maintenance engineer. In 2012, his first novel, Jacob’s Cinema, came first in the novel category of the President of the Republic Prize. He won the Assia Djebar Prize, widely regarded as the most important prize for the novel in Algeria, for his second novel, Mountain of Death (2015), which tells the story of Spanish communists imprisoned in North African camps after losing the Spanish Civil War. In 2016, he took part in the IPAF “Nadwa” (creative writing workshop for talented young writers). His third novel Circles and Doors (2017) won the 2017 Kuwaiti Suad al-Sabah Novel Prize, and also in 2017, he won the Katara Novel Prize in the unpublished novel category, for Testament of the Deeds of the Forgotten Ones.

After being shortlisted, Abdelouahab Aissaoui said in an exclusive interview for IPAF, “In general, historical novels do not reconstruct stories for the sake of the stories themselves. Their main objective is to search for questions and concerns that we face now and have faced before, in the context in which they first appeared.”

The Spartan Court was chosen by the IPAF judges as the best work of fiction published between July 2018 and June 2019 from a shortlist of six novels by authors from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The shortlisted finalists – Abdelouahab Aissaoui, Khalil Alrez, Jabbour Douaihy, Said Khatibi, Alia Mamdouh and Youssef Ziedan – will receive USD $10,000.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

Subscribe Now

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here