Young Saudi novelist and short-story writer Mohammed Hasan Alwan has won the Arab World Institute’s Prix de la Littérature Arabe for his novel The Beaver (Al-Qundus), translated to French by Stéphanie Dujols:
The Beaver won out over a number of acclaimed novels on the shortlist, including Ali al-Muqri’s Forbidden Woman, trans. Khaled Osman and Ola Mehanna, which was given a jury citation; Najwa Barakat’s The Language of Secrets, also longlisted for the 2015 Prix Femina; and Rabee Jaber’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF)-winning Druze of Belgrade.
Al-Muqri’s special mention comes with a €5000 prize.
The Prix de la Littérature Arabe is an annual prize for “an emerging writer from a member country of the Arab League who has written a work…published in French, or translated from Arabic to French, relating to the theme of Arab youth.” The prize is now in its third year.
According to a release, the Prix de la Littérature Arabe’s nine-person jury chose Alwan’s book “by a very large majority.”
In addition to a collection of short stories and the work on migration, Alwan has published four novels, of which The Beaver was his most recent. This novel is a portrait of a contemporary conservative bourgeois family in Riyadh.
The French prize was created in 2013 by Jean-Luc Lagardère Foundation and the Arab World Institute, and is chaired by Pierre Leroy. In 2013, Jabbour Douaihy won the inaugural prize for his St. George Was Looking Away, ( شريد المنازل), which was also translated by Dujols. The second annual prize went in 2014 to Mohammad al-Fakharany for his La traversée du K.-O, translated by Marianne Babut.
The full 2015 Prix de la Littérature Arabe shortlist:
1. Femme interdite, or Forbidden Woman, d’Ali al-Muqri (Liana Levi) ;
2. Le castor, or The Beaver, de Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Seuil) ;
3. L’Âne mort, or The Dead Donkey, de Chawki Amari (Barzakh) ;
4. La Langue du secret, or The Language of Secrets, de Najwa M. Barakat (Actes Sud) ;
5. Les quatre saisons du citronnier, or The Four Seasons of Lemons, de Souad Benkirane (Karthala) ;
6. Les Druzes de Belgrade, or Druze of Belgrade, de Rabee Jaber (Gallimard) ;
7. La Cigogne, or The Stork, d’Akram Musallam (Actes Sud).
Alwan’s official website
An English-language excerpt from The Beaver, produced by a translation workshop
Short story: “Oil Field,” by Alwan, trans. Peter Clark
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