This morning it was announced that The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem jointly won the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. (AKA the Arab Booker.)
Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil Al-Azzawi was the chair of this year’s judging committee, and here’s what he had to say:
“The Judging Panel decided to give the Prize equally to two novels, which are The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem. They are two wonderful novels with great literary quality and they both deal with important and realistic problems in the Middle East, problems which have been reflected on banners during the recent protests that have shaken the Arab world, demanding change.
“The first novel, The Arch and the Butterfly, deals with Islamic extremism and terrorism and its destructive effect upon Arabic society itself, rather than on the West. The second, The Dove’s Necklace, reveals the true face of Mecca: behind the city’s holy veil there is another Mecca, where many crimes are committed and there is also corruption, prostitution and mafias of building contractors who are destroying the historic areas of the city, and therefore its soul, for commercial gain.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that a woman has finally won the prize. But the idea of sharing it (and being listed second everywhere in this press release) kind of taints the whole thing for me. Sure, both novels will be translated and published in English (win), but they have to split the $50,000 cash award. Something about this just doesn’t sit right . . . It’s like VCU and UAB making the NCAA Tournament. Fine, it’s fine. But all the explanations (“both novels are great!,” “all teams are deserving!”) feel half-hearted and cheap.
(Oh, and is it “The Doves’ Necklace“ or “The Dove’s Necklace“? Confused.)
But whatever. I just wish Raja Alem had won straight out. Not only does it diminish her accomplishment of being the first female to receive the reward, but it’s kind of stupid to have a prize and split it between two books. Make up your minds! Choose a winner!
That’s all. Congrats to both authors.
One of the greatest services—or disservices, depending on your viewpoint—Bertrand Russell ever performed for popular philosophy was humanizing its biggest thinkers in his History. No longer were they Platonic ideals, the clean-shaven exemplars of the kind of homely truisms that. . .
The best way to review Alejandra Pizarnik’s slim collection, A Musical Hell, published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series, is to begin by stating that it is poetry with a capital P: serious, dense, and, some. . .
Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had. . .
When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond. . .
“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .
With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .
In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .
You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .
The narrative history of. . .
Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .
Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is a set of two loosely interlinked novellas that play with narrative and the construction of character. Ably translated by Ann Goldstein, Mr. Gwyn plays some subtle metafictional games as Baricco delves into what it means. . .