The only Egyptian author shortlisted for the Arabic Booker prize, Ibrahim Eissa, has expressed his pleasure at making the list for his novel Mouwlana (Our Master).
Eissa told Ahram Online that he is pleased to learn that the first novel he has written after an eight-year hiatus has been shortlisted for one of the highest Arabic literary prizes.
"This is a moment of joy and pride for me. My novel has achieved the difficult equation of juggling between popular success, as the novel’s five prints ran out at bookstores, and high critical evaluation, from such a judging panel," he said.
Eissa's last novel was released in 2004, before the start of the Arabic Booker in 2007. He started writing Mouwlana when he was sacked from his position as editor-in-chief of Al-Dostour daily.
"My novel tackles the hidden world of the religious channels and the business that lies behind it. I believe it’s the first novel to expose this world to the reader, and being shortlisted for the prize may show that Arab readers really needed a novel that fills this empty space," he explained.
He also expressed his appreciation for the judging panel, which was headed by Egyptian thinker and economist Galal Amin, not only for choosing his novel but because its membership included thinkers and artists from outside the literary field, giving it a wider scope.
Amin has been at the centre of some controversy regarding his literary tastes, with some critics accusing him of populism.
Ibrahim Eissa is an Egyptian journalist, born in 1965. He began working on the Rose Al-Youssef magazine when he was still in his first year of studies at the College of Media, Cairo. His novels include Hussein's Blood (1992), The Last Manifestation of Mary (1993), Blood on a Breast (1996), Assassination of the Big Man (1999) and National Ghosts (2008).