2023 Winner Interview
How did you feel about winning?
It was a big surprise! To the extent that I was speechless. I didn’t expect it because the shortlisted novels were all strong. I read them and knew how good they were and that they deserved to win. So I had minimal expectations about winning. Thank God.
This is your fourth novel. Did you expect it to have such an impact?
In my opinion, my previous novels were better, but this is the first time I have submitted my work for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, at my publisher’s suggestion. Once the novel was longlisted, people began reading and talking about it and I was delighted at this interest! I wished I had submitted my previous novels as well.
Shall we expect to read about the theme of water in coming works?
I usually tackle a particular theme in each work. In Hunger for Honey, it was beekeeping and collecting honey, and before that was hunting moose in The Sniper. Every novel has its own world so that I don’t repeat myself. Societies, rural or urban, have similar and limited ideas. The trick is to find a way to write about a certain idea in a new way.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
The best advice for any writer is to not to listen to other people’s advice. They should find their own way and style of writing. Sometimes external dictation destroys us. They should find their inner voice, have a theme and work on themselves. Of course, writing must be preceded by reading. There is no great writing without great reading. They must read and know what other writing is out there. And not just read, but also analyze. They have to be aware of what they are reading.
Ahead of the winner announcement, shortlisted authors spent time together in Abu Dhabi. How did you find this experience?
Wonderful. I actually reached out to some authors on Facebook before coming. I wanted to remove this idea that we are competing with one another. We are all writers and friends and each one of us is worthy of winning.
Did you celebrate or are you waiting to celebrate when you return home?
The night of the announcement there was a small celebration, but I think the bigger one will be with my family, with my daughters and sons.