Ibrahim Nasrallah named as winner of the Arabic Booker Prize 2018

Mohammed Saad , Tuesday 24 Apr 2018

Nasrallah is set to receive the $50,000 award for his dystopian novel exploring the depths of human depravity

Ibrahim Nasrallah
Ibrahim Nasrallah won 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel The Second War of the Dog

The Second War of the Dog by Palestinian-Jordanian author Ibrahim Nasrallah was announced in a ceremony in Abu-Dhabi on Tuesday the winner of the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), known as the Arabic Booker 2018.

Nasrallah is set to receive a $50,000 award, and each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000.

The chair of judges, Ibrahim Al-Saafin, described Nasrallah’s novel as a masterful vision incorporating fantasy and science fiction techniques to portray a dystopian future in a nameless country.

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

The novel focuses on the corrupt main character, Rashid, who changes from an opponent of the overarching regime to a materialistic and unscrupulous extremist.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of IPAF trustees, said “Ibrahim Nasrallah’s novel paints a chilling picture of humanity in all its destructive potential. Without a moral compass, the protagonist lets go of the normal bounds that constrain human behaviour. Nasrallah expertly draws the reader into this world from different vantage points, using  crisp language in which humour makes relating to the main character bearable, or just so. His win is an accolade well-deserved.

Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were uprooted from their land in 1948. He spent his childhood in the Al-Wehdat Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan and began his working life as a teacher in Saudi Arabia.

After returning to Amman, he worked as a journalist and then later for the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. Since 2006, he has been a full-time author and has acted as a mentor to emerging writers at IPAF’s annual writers’ workshop in 2014 and 2016.

Four of his novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including Time of White Horses, which was shortlisted for the Arabic Booker in 2009 and Lanterns of the King of Galilee, long-listed in 2013.

In a 2012 review of Time of White Horses, the British current affairs magazine The New Statesman praised Nasrallah’s “intensely eloquent voice [that] gives Western audiences an insight into the lives of the marginalised.”

After his shortlisting, Ibrahim Nasrallah said in an exclusive film for IPAF: “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 we could become in the future…The novel starts off at the moment of a loss of certainty, that loss of trust in those whom you interact closely with – that neighbour, brother, father, or whoever it may be. The novel suggests that if we continue on our current path, we will reach a future where we would become mostly nihilistic.”

The Second War of the Dog was chosen by the IPAF judges as the best work of fiction published between July 2016 and June 2017 from a list of 124 entries from 14 countries. 

Alongside chairperson Al-Saafin, who is a Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright, the 2018 judges were: Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet; Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist; Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist; and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.

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

Ahead of the announcement, the shortlisted authors took part in an event at the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi hosted by the Emirates Writers Union and NYU Abu Dhabi Institute. The event was chaired by Sudanese novelist Ann El-Safi.

Ibrahim Nasrallah will participate in his first public event as winner of the prize, alongside the five shortlisted authors, on Wednesday 25 April, the opening day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

The event will run from 7-9:30pm at the Sea of Culture Foundation Stand (12B36), under the patronage of Sheikha Sheikha bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al-Nahyan.

This year's judging panel was chaired by Ibrahim Al-Saafin, a Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright. The panel also included: Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet; Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist; Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist; and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi.

Last year’s winner was A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan.


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