On Monday, September 12th we discussed Emerging Arab Voices: Nadwa I: A bilingual reader edited by Peter Clark. This bilingual volume brings together eight pieces by a younger generation of Arab writers from Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. The work was produced during a 2009 Emirates Foundation International Prize for Arabic Fiction workshop and reflects a range of styles and themes: from Egyptian social realism to a tale from the deserts of Darfur, a grim Tunisian allegory, family drama in Saudi Arabia, and a story about home and exile in Sana’a.
Emerging Arab Voices: Nadwa I: A bilingual reader includes a foreword co-written by Inaam Kachachi, an Iraqi born writer whose debut novel The American Granddaughter was shortlisted for the 2008–2009 IPAF, and the Lebanese author Jabbour Douaihy, whose novel June Rain was shortlisted for the IPAF in 2007–2008. These two experienced authors acted mentors during the 9 day workshop, engaging with the writers in daily one-to-one sessions. The workshop was coordinated by IPAF trustee and cultural consultant Dr Peter Clark. Clark is a Middle East specialist, a trustee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and a contributing editor of Banipal. He has translated fiction, history, drama, and poetry from Arabic since 1980.
The Nadwa (or workshops) begun in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Throughout the process, both mentors and Peter Clark worked with participants to shape their work and, each evening, the writers shared their writing with the rest of the group through a discussion session. Over the course of the workshop, each writer was asked to produce a new piece of creative writing, either a short story or a chapter of a novel of around 3,000 words. The workshop resulted in eight new pieces of fiction, five by authors who had recently been selected for the Beirut39 (Beirut39 brings together 39 of the best known writers of Arab heritage of 39 years of age.)
Stories in the Compilation:
Kamel Riahi, Tunisia — The Gorilla: The Last of the Leader’s Children
Kamel Riahi is Tunisian and is Head of the Translation Department at the Higher Institute for Translation in Algeria. He has published one novel, two collections of short stories and three works of criticism. Riahi’s novel “The Gorilla” takes its title from the nickname of a black Tunisian young man who feels himself to be an outsider. At the beginning of the extract in the anthology, the “gorilla” ascends an enormous clock-tower in Tunis and is surrounded by security forces and crowds of onlookers. Riahi writes with much verve and vitality. Riaghl’s work has been described as an “untameable Tunisian volcano”.
Lana Abdel Rahman, Egypt – Letters to Yann Andrea
Lana Abdel Rahman is Lebanese, resident in Egypt. She has degrees from the Lebanese University and the American University of Cairo. She has published two novels and two collections of short stories, and works as a cultural journalist. In the story “letters of Yann Andrea ” by Abdel Rahman, the female central character escapes from war-torn Beirut into fantasies of the relationship between the elderly French writer and film director Marguerite Duras and the much younger man Yann Andrea. Rahman is a writer of marked delicacy.
Mansour El Souwaim, Sudan – The Ghosts of Fransawi
Mansour el-Souwaim is Sudanese and was born in Darfur. He works as a journalist in Khartoum and has published two novels and collections of short stories. His work has been translated into French and into English. The chapter from El-Sowaim’s novel “The Ghosts of Fransawi” is compelling and poetic, with its evocations of Darfur – but as with some of the other extracts from novels, one would have liked some context and background information about the work.
Mansoura Ez Eldin, Egypt — Temporary Death
Egyptian novelist and journalist Mansoura Ez Eldin was born in Delta Egypt in 1976. She studied journalism at the Faculty of Media, Cairo University and has since published short stories in various newspapers and magazines: she published her first collection of short stories, Shaken Light, in 2001. This was followed by two novels, Maryam’s Maze in 2004 and Beyond Paradise in 2009. Her work has been translated into a number of languages, including an English translation of Maryam’s Maze by the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press. This year, she was selected for the Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors below the age of 40. She was also a participant of the inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) held by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and was a mentor at the second nadwa in October 2010. Al-Azab’s novel “Temporary Death” about a mysterious little boy with the physical maturity of a man, and his impact on a village, particularly its women. Al-Azab brought with him the charm of Cairo and that city’s finest narrative dress.
Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Saudi Arabia – The Beaver
Mohammed Hassan Alwan was born in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. He has an MBA from the University of Portland, Oregon. He has published three novels as well as short stories. He writes a weekly column for a Saudi newspaper. The extract from the amiable Alwan’s confidently-written novel “The Beaver” centers on a Riyadh family dubbed “the beavers” by the first-person narrator son. The narrator dissects the dynamics between family members, and his mother’s desertion and remarriage.
Nadia Alkokabani, Yemen — My Own Sana’a
Nadia Alkokabani was born in Taiz, Yemen, and has degrees from Yemen and Egypt. She is Professor of Architecture at the University of Sanaa. She has published three collections of short stories. Written in a defiant first-person voice, Alkokabani’s “My Own Sana’a” is a painter who has returned to Yemen from Cairo with her mother after her father’s death.
Mohamed Salah El Azab, Egypt — The Beaver
Mohammed Salah al-Azab was born in Cairo and has published novels and collections of short stories. Among several awards he has won the Suad Al-Sabah Award for the Novel. The central protagonist in Ez-Eldin’s macabre story “The Beaver” is a middle-aged Egyptian woman Samiha who has fallen prey to partners more than 20 years her junior, who have taken much of her wealth.
Nasser al-Dhaheri, UAE — The Stone of Desire
Nasser al-Dhaheri is an Emirati and was born in al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates and has studied in the UAE and in Paris. He has been editor of al-Ittihad newspaper. He has published nine volumes of short stories and of articles. confident in his style and his aesthetic choices. In the story “The Stone of Desire” Al-Dhaheri skillfully depicts an ageing sculptress and her relationship with a blind beggar, whom she sculpts, and his 11-year-old son.
- “This is a well chosen collection of some of the best Arab writers I’ve come across, with a broad spectrum of themes, well chosen and beautifully rendered into English.”—Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian WalksYoung
- Reed the review “Arab writers find their voice” by Susannah Tarbush for the Saudi Gazette
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), which is supported by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, launched its inaugural Nadwa in November 2009. The workshop from which these stories emerged forms part of IPAF’s commitment to recognising excellence in Arabic literature – while encouraging an increased international readership through translation. Modeled on other international writing workshops, the Nadwa will give these promising authors the opportunity to develop and discuss their work with their mentors – and to publish their works in Arabic and English.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is a literary prize managed in association with the Booker Prize Foundation in London, and supported by the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi. The prize is specifically for prose fiction by Arabic authors, along the lines of the Man Booker Prize. Each year, the winner of the prize receives US$50,000 and the six shortlisted authors receive US$10,000 each. The aim of the award is to recognise and reward excellence in contemporary Arabic fiction writing and to encourage wider readership of quality Arabic literature in the region and internationally. The prize is also designed to encourage the translation and promotion of Arabic language literature into other major world languages. An independent board of trustees, drawn from across the Arab world and beyond, is responsible for appointing six new judges each year, and for the overall management of the prize. The inaugural IPAF nadwa took place in November 2009 at Sir Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.