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Palestinian novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah wins Arab world's top fiction prize

Author wins 'al-Booker al-Arabi' prize for The Second War of the Dog, a novel on corruption and extremism in a nameless country
Palestinian writer Ibrahim Nasrallah poses for a photo after winning the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his book titled (AFP)

Palestinian author Ibrahim Nasrallah has landed the Arab world's top fiction prize for his novel The Second War of the Dog, a dystopian tale of inhumanity.

Nasrallah's novel won the 11th International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF), launched in 2007 and affiliated with the UK's Man Booker Prize, at a ceremony at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Known as "al-Booker al-Arabi" in the Arab world, it is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi.

Ibrahim al-Saafin, the chief judge, said: "The Second War of the Dog is a masterful vision of a dystopian future in a nameless country, using fantasy and science fiction techniques.

"With humour and insight, it exposes the tendency towards brutality inherent in society, imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible, even the buying and selling of human souls."

Nasrallah reveals the intrinsic savagery in human beings in his novel, as he describes a futuristic world where greed intensifies and human values and ethics are ignored. All this is done through a corrupt main character, Rashid, who changes from an opponent of the regime to a materialistic and unscrupulous extremist in a violence-wracked nameless country.

A masterful vision... imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible

Ibrahim al-Saafin, judge

Ibrahim Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were uprooted from ِal-Burayj village in Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

He spent his childhood in the Alwehdat Palestinian Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan and began his working life as a teacher in Saudi Arabia.

He also worked in journalism and turned to full-time writing in 2006.

He said: "The novel was written to provoke the reader, to worry the reader, to even, sometimes, make them breathless. The Second War of the Dog is, in my opinion, a warning of what could come in the future." 

The International Prize for Arab Fiction includes $50,000 for the winner and a funding to translate the work into English.

The five shortlisted finalists, Amir Tag Elsir, Aziz Mohammed, Shahad al-Rawi, Walid Shurafa and Dima Wannous were also honoured at the ceremony, each receiving $10,000. 

Four of Nasrallah's novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including Time of White Horses and Lanterns of the King of Galilee, two of his most acclaimed novels that narrates tales from Palestinian folklore and oral history, and explore Palestinian villages and towns morphing into ruin, as a result of wars and occupation. 

The Second War of the Dog was chosen by the IPAF judges from 124 entries from 14 countries in the Arab world.

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