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Mohammed Hasan Alwan was announced today as the winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017, for his novel A Small Death. Set up in 2007, the $50,000 prize is awarded to the best Arabic novel of the year, with a guarantee that it will be translated into English, and a further $10,000 given to each of the other shortlisted authors.
The novel centers on Arab Andalusian scholar Ibn Arabi, a 12th-century mystic and poet, and a highly influential and polarizing historical figure—regarded by some as the greatest Sufi master in Muslim history. As a fictional account of his life, from his birth in Spain to his travels across the Middle East and Central Asia, A Small Death intersperses historical fiction with philosophical introductions.
The chair of the judging panel, Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh, commented on behalf of the judges: “With striking artistry and in captivating language, it sheds light on Ibn Arabi’s view of spiritual and temporal love in their most refined forms. The life of Ibn Arabi, the man, evolves and takes shape against the background of a tumultuous historical period filled with wars and conflicts.”
Mohammed Hasan Alwan was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1979 and now lives in Toronto, Canada. Of his four previous published novels, one—The Beaver (2011)—was previously shortlisted to the prize, and had its French translation win the Arab World Institute’s Prix de la Littérature Arabe in 2015.
The other novels in the shortlist are the following:
. The Slave Pens by Najwa Binshatwan (Libya)
. The Bookseller’s Murder by Saad Mohammed Raheem (Iraq)
. In the Spider’s Room by Mohammed Abdel Nabi (Egypt)
. Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury (Lebanon)
. Al-Sabiliat by Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwait)
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction was set up in 2007 on the model of the British Man Booker Prize (with which it shares the support of the Booker Prize Foundation), and is one of the most prestigious prizes for Arabic literary fiction.
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