A novel about Palestinian life in occupation and exile by Rabai al-Madhoun has won the ninth $50,000 International Prize for Arabic
Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba, published by Maktabat Kul Shee (Haifa, Palestine), was named the winner by this year’s chairperson of Judges, Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
In addition to winning $50,000 (£34,270.75), al-Madhoun is guaranteed an English translation of his novel, as well as an “increase in book sales and international recognition”, the organisers have said.
A “pioneering” novel written in four parts, Destinies chronicles Palestinian life both in occupation and exile. Each part represents a concerto movement with the novel examining the holocaust, the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948 (known as the nakba) and the Palestinian right to return. The work examines everyday Palestinian life, telling the story of Palestinians living under occupation and compelled to assume Israeli nationality, as well as exiled Palestinians trying to return to their now-occupied home country.
Al-Madhoun, who was born in Palestine but is now a British citizen, lives and works in London as an editor for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
This is the 70-year-old author’s third novel. His 2010 novel, The Lady from Tel Aviv, was shortlisted for the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. It was subsequently published in English by Telegram Books in 2013 and won the English PEN Writers in Translation award that year.
Thiban said: “In Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba, Rabai al-Madhoun invents a new fictional form in order to address the Palestinian issue, with questions of identity underpinned by a very human perspective on the struggle. This tragic, polyphonic novel borrows the symbol of the concerto, with its different movements, to represent the multiplicity of destinies. Destinies can be considered the complete Palestinian novel, travelling back to a time before the nakba in order to throw light on current difficulties faced by the Palestinian diaspora and the sense of displacement felt by those left behind.”
Al Madhoun beat off competition from The Guard of the Dead by George Yaraq (Difaf), A Sky Close to Our House by Shahla Ujayli (Difaf), Numedia by Tareq Bakeri (Dar al-Adab), Mercury by Mohamed Rabi (Dar Tanweer) and Praise for the Women of the Family (Hachette Antoine) by Mahmoud Shukair to win the prize.
The five other shortlisted finalists were also honoured at the ceremony alongside the winner, with each given $10,000 (£6,863.89).