The Italian by Shukri al-Mabkhout takes International prize for Arabic fiction for story written in the aftermath of the Arab spring

Mokaddem’s first thriller in French takes inspiration from Sumerian mythology and Lovecraftian themes of horror grounded in our fear of the unknown. A historical fiction set in Carthage featuring Hannibal Barca, readers will embark on an exciting treasure hunt of obscure riddles, historical references and ancient legends amidst the heart of the legendary ancient city of Carthage Mokaddem received the Golden Comar’s 2015 Price Discovery for this work.

Today’s your lucky day. Here are 8 more Tunisian books to pick up on:

I read the excerpt of Sarmada at Book2Look, and I must say I was favorably impressed with the high quality of the writing. I would not seek out a novel featuring the theme of transmigration, but the writing is so nice I would read the book anyway.

When it was released last year, 53-year-old al-Mabkhout’s novel came as something of a shock to the Tunisian literary community. Al-Mabkhout is current president of the country’s University of Manouba and a well-known cultural figure, respected for his translations, literary criticism, and a weekly newspaper column, but his arrival as a novelist had not been expected. After the initial surprise, his debut received an enthusiastic reception, last month winning Tunisia’s top literary prize.

Well, I hope to have Q&As with all of them, so I can ask. Chip I believe came here to Egypt in…2004, but I can’t say that I know why. Robin also was here in Egypt for quite some time. But again, I can’t say why.🙂

“In a short period of time, we experienced what is equivalent to many years’ worth of unbelievable confusion and changes,” the novelist wrote. He could have addressed his feelings in a newspaper column, he said, but instead it was the novel form, “with its ability to grasp the contradictions, conflicts, changes, and hesitations,” that drew him in. This year he plans to publish a second novel as well as a collection of poems.

You can also read a review of Utopia from The Independent, which refers to the novel as “a miniature masterpiece.”

These books sound great. Three of the translators have non-Arabic names. I am curious about the education and life experiences of non-Arabs who achieve the degree of fluency required for translation.

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Tunisia has a literature of unique richness that spans across two languages, Arabic and French. Many modern Tunisian writers are based in Europe and the West, and more and more English translations are becoming available of the great works of figures such as Ali al-Du’aji, Amina Said and Hassouna al-Mosbahi. Here’s a guide to eight of the finest Tunisian novelists and poets — both past and present.

If you are a lover of books and seek to explore Tunisian culture, there is no better way to enjoy your summer at the beach than with the quiet companionship of a good book. Have you read our list of 8 Tunisian books to read before you die? Already read them all and are looking for more?

Rizk wasn’t sure why the book was being singled out. Other books on the shortlist also cross traditional red lines, particularly Syrian novelist Lina Hawyan Elhassan’s Diamonds and Women, which has a number of sex scenes.

La Statue de Sel (A Pillar of Salt) – Albert Memmi

Also: All these authors, with the exception of Mosbahi, will be appearing at fall literary events in the U.K.

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Even before the announcement, there was wide interest in al-Mabkhout’s historical novel, whose protagonist is nicknamed “the Italian” for his slick good looks. The novel is set in Tunisia during the tumultuous crossover between Habib Bourguiba’s 30-year rule (1957-1987) and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 24 years in power (1987-2011) and follows the central character’s political and romantic adventures while also critically examining Tunisia under two dictatorships.

An eventual English translation is more or less guaranteed by the IPAF, the highest-profile Arabic novel prize. Six of the previous seven winners are already available in English. The most recent is Saud al-Sanoussi’s The Bamboo Stalk, published at the end of last month. English rights to last year’s winner, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, have been picked up by Oneworld, and it is tentatively scheduled for a 2016 release.

I look forward to getting copies of all these books soon, and to talking with Robin Moger, Max Weiss, Adam Talib, and Chip Rossetti about the translations.

Utopia, By Ahmed Khaled Towfik Translated by Chip Rossetti

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Thus far, Rizk said, al-Mabkhout’s novel remained available elsewhere. “We sold it in Riyadh. Now of course that’s threatened.”

La Deuxième épouse (The Second Wife) – Fawzia Zouari

This recognition is perhaps what led to its banning in the Emirates, although no official reason has been given. Last week, al-Mabkhout’s publisher found out from Maktabet al Jamea (University Bookshop) in Abu Dhabi that the “authorities informed him it’s banned and that he therefore can’t stock it,” according to Sherif Joseph Rizk, the Cairo manager of Dar al-Tanweer, the book’s publisher.

A Tunisian Tale, by Hassouna Mosbahi Translated by Max Weiss

You can also read an excerpt at Book2Look.

An ebook version isn’t yet out, but Rizk said one should be available soon through Diwan Bookstores.

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Rizk said that Dar al-Tanweer did bring copies to the Abu Dhabi international book fair, which opens on Thursday, saying that “the fairs always get more lenient procedures”. IPAF organisers also issued a statement that copies would be available at the fair and that, “As a prize, we promote literature across borders but cannot influence the availability of our titles.”

Al-Mabkhout said in an email interview with IPAF organisers that he was inspired by the backlash that came after the 2010-2011 Tunisian uprising that ousted Ben Ali.

A Tunisian university administrator has won the International prize for Arabic fiction (IPAF) for his debut novel, The Italian, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ capital city. Shukri al-Mabkhout’s award comes just a week after his publishers learned from an Abu Dhabi bookshop that the novel was banned from bookshops across the Emirates.

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The Italian is the eighth winner of the $50,000 (£33,000) prize known as the “Arabic Booker”. While the award is funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, its longlist, shortlist and winner are decided by a panel of independent judges, this year chaired by Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti.

Books Based In Tunisia

And although I’ve corresponded with Max, I guess I don’t know anything about why Arabic. So…good question!

I’ll put these titles on my “to read” list, maybe at the head of the line.

IPAF judging chair Mourid Barghouti said The Italian “brilliantly depicts the unrest both of the small world of its characters and the larger one of the nation”. Although it’s about Tunisian society, he said, “the book may also surprise many of its Arab readers who may recognise aspects of their societies in its pages”.

EL Habes Kadeb w EL Hay Yrawah (As long as the prisoner is alive then prison is nothing but an illusion) – Fathi Ben Haj Yahia

On the morning after the prize, the novel’s distributor said the book would now go on sale in the UAE. “The book was never banned, but its release was delayed a wee bit – that’s all,” Tariq Al Khajah, owner of distributor Zain Al Ma’ani, told the Gulf News.