Six authors — from the UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Palestine and Iraq – started their International Prize for Arabic Fiction-sponsored “masterclass” (yes, it was previously called a nadwa; perhaps that word was too hard for us English-language journos). Anyhow:
Sara Al Jarwan, UAE.
Al Jarwan has won a number of awards, and more to the point popularity. She wrote what may have been the first novel by an Emirati woman, published when she was just 14. She now works as a full-time novelist, and told Gulf News that she’s interested in romantic fiction and “Iraqi poet Nazik Al Malaika and the Egyptian novelist and journalist Ehsan Abdul Qudoos have also had an impact on my character as a writer.”
As to translation — been featured in Banipal. Robin Moger translated a chapter of her 2009 novel Letters to My Lord the Sultan. It’s difficult to judge from a novel excerpt; it was interesting but forgettable.
Mohammad Rabie, Egypt.
The author of the Sawiris-prize-winning Amber Planet has yet to be translated into any language, I believe (you could be the first!), but has been certainly discussed in English as in Arabic. This masterclass citation is particularly fitting, as Rabie’s novel was born at a nadwa at Cairo’s Kotob Khan books. His second novel, Year of the Dragon, was released in 2012.
Charbel Kattan, Lebanon.
Kattan’s first novel, Suitcases of Memory (2010), was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2012. Its intriguing premise was matching “orphan suitcases” at the Beirut airport with their owners.
Kattan, who lives in South Africa, told IPAF organizers that it was difficult to keep writing so far from an Arabic literary environment, but nonetheless he felt ”an almost unbearable need to write pressing upon me”. Read an excerpt from his novel online.
Ahmed Saadawi, Iraq
Saadawi was one of the Beirut39, and the excerpt from his Frankenstein in Baghdad was memorable. He told Sousan Hammad, in an interview for the Beirut39 project, “The problem here is that I cannot escape “Iraq”. I mean, this is the place that I know, and it is the one place that primarily matters to me more than any other. I want to create a vision that is honestly constructed about what is going on. I believe that many of us in Iraq – artists, intellectuals, and average people – are still unable to comprehend the dramatic and monstrous events that took place since April 2003, and until this day.”
Saadawi has published two novels, The Beautiful Country (2004) and Indeed He Dreams or Plays or Dies (2008).
The masterclass will be led by Inaam Kachachi (The American Granddaughter) and Amir Tag Elsir (Grub Hunter) and will run until Nov. 6, just before the opening of the Sharjah International Book Fair.
And, by way of a reminder, the press release notes: “The longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2013 will be announced on 6 December 2012, the shortlist on Tuesday 8 January 2013 and the winner on 23 April 2013.”