In a ceremony hosted in Abu Dhabi on Sunday evening, 21 May, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction announced “The Water Diviner” (Taghribat Al-Qafer) winner of this year’s contest.
Earlier this year, “The Water Diviner” appeared on the IPAF shortlist along with five other titles: “Days of Sunshine” (Ayyam Al-Shams Al-Moshreqa) of Egypt’s Miral Al-Tahawy; “The Highest Part of the Horizon” (Al-Ofoq Al-A’la) of Saudi Arabia’s Fatima Abudlhamid; “Draught” (Mena) of Algeria’s Al-Sadi Ahmed, “Concerto Quirna Eduardo” of Libya’s Najwa Binshatwan; and “The Stone of Happiness” (Hajar Al-Saadah) of Iraq’s Azher Jirgees.
Inspired by life in an Omani village, where water is both precious and scarce, “The Water Diviner” was judged by the board as a novel that delves into a topic that has rarely been addressed in Arabic fiction. A poet-turned-novelist, Al-Qasmi was praised for a highly poetic text that softly delved into the social fabric of a village in an Omani society where people live at the mercy of generally scarce water.
In remarks he made when his novel appeared on the IPAF shortlist, Al-Qasmi said that the novel was designed to reflect on the relationship between people and nature and on water as the ultimate source of life.
Al-Qasmi was born in Oman in 1974. Before this year’s IPAF-winning volume, he had published several poems and short stories. In 2013, he published his first novel “Mountain of the Horseradish Tree”. This was followed by two other novels: “The Snipper” and “Hunger for Honey”.
Al-Qasmi gets $50,000 for the prize. IPAF funds the translation of his novel into English.
Giving the IPAF prize to a novel that addresses the otherwise untypical issue of the environment comes at a moment when Arabs are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues. UAE, the owner of the IPAF prize, is set to host COP28 in November this year.
The jury of IPF for this year included Moroccan writer and novelist Mohamed Achari; Egyptian academic and novelist Reem Bassiouni; Algerian novelist and researcher Fadhila Al-Farouk; Omani writer and academic Aziza Al-Ta’l; and Professor and translator Tetz Rooke of Sweden.