Ibrahim Nasrallah wins 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction
The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah was tonight, Tuesday 24 April 2018, announced as the winner of the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).
The novel, published by Arab Scientific Publishers, was named as this year’s winner by the Chair of Judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, at a ceremony at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi. In addition to winning $50,000, funding will be provided for the English translation of The Second War of the Dog, and Ibrahim Nasrallah can expect an increase in book sales and international recognition.
The Chair of Judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, says:
‘The Second War of the Dog is a masterful vision of a dystopian future in a nameless country, using fantasy and science fiction techniques. With humour and insight, it exposes the tendency towards brutality inherent in society, imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible, even the buying and selling of human souls.’
The novel focuses on the corrupt main character, Rashid, who changes from an opponent of the regime to a materialistic and unscrupulous extremist. Nasrallah reveals the intrinsic savagery in human beings, as he describes a futuristic world where greed intensifies and human values and ethics are ignored.
Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of IPAF Trustees, comments:
‘Ibrahim Nasrallah’s novel paints a chilling picture of humanity in all its destructive potential. Without a moral compass, the protagonist lets go of the normal bounds that constrain human behaviour. Nasrallah expertly draws the reader into this world from different vantage points, using crisp language in which humour makes the moral burden of relating to the main character “bearable”, or just so. His win is an accolade well-deserved.’
Ibrahim Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were uprooted from their land in 1948. He spent his childhood in the Alwehdat Palestinian Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan and began his working life as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. After returning to Amman, he worked as a journalist and for the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. Since 2006, he has been a full-time writer and has acted as a mentor to emerging writers at IPAF’s annual nadwa (writers’ workshop), in 2014 and 2016.
Four of his novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including: Time of White Horses, which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2009; and Lanterns of the King of Galilee, longlisted in 2013. In a 2012 review of Time of White Horses, the New Statesman praised Nasrallah’s “intensely eloquent voice [that] gives Western audiences an insight into the lives of the marginalised”.
After his shortlisting, Ibrahim Nasrallah said in an exclusive film for IPAF:
‘The novel was written to provoke the reader, to worry the reader, to even, sometimes, make them breathless. The Second War of the Dog is, in my opinion, a warning of what we could become in the future …The novel starts off at the moment of a loss of certainty, that loss of trust in those whom you interact closely with – that neighbour, brother, father, or whoever it may be. The novel suggests that if we continue on our current path, we will reach a future where we would become mostly annihilistic.’
The Second War of the Dog was chosen by the IPAF judges as the best work of fiction published between July 2016 and June 2017 from 124 entries from 14 countries. Alongside chair Ibrahim Al Saafin, who is a Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright, the 2018 judges were: Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet; Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist; Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist; and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.
The five shortlisted finalists, Amir Tag Elsir, Aziz Mohammed, Shahad Al Rawi, Walid Shurafa and Dima Wannous were also honoured at the ceremony, each receiving $10,000. Ahead of the announcement, the shortlisted authors took part in an event at the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi hosted by the Emirates Writers Union and NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, and chaired by Sudanese novelist Ann El Safi. Walid Shurafa also spoke about his shortlisted novel Heir of the Tombstones at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery in connection with an exhibition Permanent Temporariness, which focuses on the lives of Palestinian refugees.
Ibrahim Nasrallah will participate in his first public event as the winner of the Prize, alongside the five shortlisted authors, on 25 April, the opening day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The event will run from 7-9.30pm at the Sea of Culture Foundation Stand (12B36), under the patronage of Sheikha Sheikha bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan.
Fulfilling its ambition to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize provides funding for English translation for its winners. This year has seen the publication of 2014 winner Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad by Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US. The novel has been widely and positively reviewed: “brave and ingenious,” by The New York Times and “hallucinatory and hilarious … and remarkable” by the Guardian. Its translation rights have been sold for a further 14 languages including Cantonese and Mandarin, and its English translation was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in April 2018. In March 2018, 2016 winner Rabai al-Madhoun’s Fractured Destinies was published by Hoopoe Fiction.
Other winners already available in English include Baha Taher’s Sunset Oasis in 2009 and Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel in 2012. English translations of Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles and Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly were published in 2014. Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk was published in 2015 and Raja Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace, in 2016.
The translation rights for two of the books on this year’s shortlist have already been sold. Shahad Al Rawi’s The Baghdad Clock has been translated by Luke Leafgren and will be published in May by Oneworld Publications. Dima Wannous’ The Frightened Ones has been translated by Elisabeth Jacquette and will be published in 2019 in the UK by Harvill Secker and in the US by Knopf Doubleday. From the 2017 shortlist, In the Spider’s Room by Mohammed Abdel Nabi has been translated into English by Jonathan Wright and will be published by Hoopoe Fiction in July.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).