Interview with 2017 IPAF Winner Mohammed Hasan Alwan


In the days preceding the winner announcement you participated in a number of events with the other shortlisted authors in Abu Dhabi. How did you find that experience?

It was very good. I like that there are events accompanying the announcement rather than just having an announcement of the winner on its own. It was a lovely opportunity to meet the shortlisted authors and exchange opinions and cultural concerns.

And was your experience this time different from when you were shortlisted for The Beaver in 2013?

Yes, it was. I enjoyed both times. This time is different because we’re talking about another work, a new novel and five different people and possibly new readers.

What were you thinking as you were walking towards the stage to receive your prize?

I was truly grateful for everyone who contributed to making this novel come to life. From the people, dead and alive, whose books and works I read in order to write this novel, friends who read the manuscript and gave me their feedback, the publisher who responded quickly and brought the book out in a good form, and also, to the IPAF and the judges. All these parties contributed to the book coming out the way it did. So I generally feel grateful.

And surprised. We’re talking about a shortlist of six works out of 186, so any panel of judges would really choose the best, and this year’s panel included some of the biggest names in literature, criticism, translation and writing. It was clearly very hard to choose one of these six. So it was definitely a surprise since it was hard to predict the winner.

© Khéridine Mabrouk / IPAF

What advice would you give a young Saudi or Arab writer?

I am always asked to give advice to beginner writers which is an assumption that I am an experienced one, whereas I consider myself to be a beginner in need of advice.

But I want to say to those who are about to enter the world of writing: First of all, do not take all advice blindly. Take only the advice that works for you, but hold on to your self confidence and know that it is you who will make the final decision of how and what you will write.

The other thing is that if you have a brilliant idea, you have to realize that the idea is not everything, but the writing itself is more important, because that is what will matter when the book is published. Many works have great and unprecedented ideas, but they are written in a hurry which is a shame because the writer is often qualified and talented enough to turn out a better work if he/she gave it a few more months of writing time.

Read this interview in Arabic here