Ahram Online has learned from sources inside the judging committee of the fifth gathering of the Arabic novel award, that Libyan author, Ibrahim Al-Koni is the winner. The decision will be announced at the closing ceremony of the gathering at 6.00 pm today, Wednesday 15 December, 2010 at the Small Hall of the Cairo Opera House. The prize of LE100, 000, given by the Ministry of Culture, is awarded every two years.
Rumours have been spreading over the last few days that the finalists for the prize would be Gamal Al-Ghitay and Khairy Shalaby, both Egyptian authors, Wassini Al-Aaaraj from Algeria and Hoda Barakat, the Lebanese author. However, the news that Ibrahim Al-Koni arrived suddenly in Cairo yesterday suggests that he is indeed the winner.
Al-Koni was nominated for this important prize in 1998, though it eventually went to the Saudi novelist, Abdel-Rahman Munif. In 2003, it was awarded to the Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim; but he refused to accept in protest at the compliance of the Egyptian government with Israel, the occupation of Iraq and the American presence in Egypt. The third award in 2005 went to the Sudanese author, Tayyeb Saleh, and finally in 2008 to Edward Kharrat from Egypt.
Al-Koni, born in1948 in Ghadames in Libya, is the renowned author and winner of the prestigious Swiss state award in 1995 for his works which have been translated into German. A French magazine selected him as one of the fifty novelists from around the globe as representatives of “twenty-first century literature”, calling them “fifty writers of tomorrow.” He also won the Sheikh Zayed book award in 2007-2008, the Moroccan award for an Arabic novel in 2005, the Japanese translation committee award, the French Order for Literature and Arts 2006, and the Libyan national award in 1999. His most famous works include “Gold Dust,””The Bleeding of the Stone,” “The Maggie,” “The Nation of Revelations,” “Autumn of the Dervishes,” “My Great Desert”, “The Seven Veils of Seth” and “The Puppet.”
According to Wikipedia, Al-Koni finished his primary education in Ghadams, his secondary education in Moscow and his Bachelors and Masters degrees in literature from the Ghorky Institute in Moscow in 1977. He speaks nine languages and has so far written sixty books. His literary work depends on limited elements, based on the world of the desert with its harshness yet openness to the core of the universe, using the link between humans and the desert environment.
He has been criticised for being ‘locked’ into the desert to the point of boredom and for his dismissal of the larger influences on his personal life, which is biased towards his family and origins, despite living abroad most of his life. By birth, he belongs to the Tawarek clan, which resides in North Africa, between Libya and Mauritania, and is famous for its men with their faces covered and the women who are uncovered, the opposite of most conservative Islamic societies.
Various academic researchers have focused on his work, including Miral El-Tahawy, this year’s winner of the Naguib Mahfouz medal for Literature.