Two Palestinian novels among finalists for 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction


The first Palestinian novel, titled "The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem," was authored by Osama Al-Eissa. The second, "A Mask, the Color of the Sky," was penned by Basim Khandaqji in 2023.

The remaining four titles that made it to the finals in 2024 are the following: "Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009" by Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia, "The Ring of Suleima" by Rima Bali from Syria, "A Gamble on the Honor of Lady Mitsy" by Ahmed Al-Morsi from Egypt, and "The Mosaist of Eissa Nasiri" from Morocco.

Khandaqji, who began writing short stories during his teenage years, was imprisoned by the Israelis at the age of 21 in 2004. Despite his incarceration, he continued to write and publish several collections of poetry, including "Rituals of the First Times" (2010), "The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem" (2013), and "The Narcissus of Isolation" (2017). He has also authored other novels such as "The Eclipse of Badr Al-Din" (2019) and "The Breath of an Abandoned Woman" (2020), as reported by ARABLIT & ARABLIT QUARTERLY magazine.

"A Mask, the Color of the Sky" revolves around the life of Nur, an archaeologist residing in a refugee camp in Ramallah. The story follows Nur's discovery of a blue ID card belonging to an Israeli individual tucked inside an old coat. Intrigued, Nur assumes the persona of the card's owner to gain insight into the oppressor. Transforming from "Nur" to "Ur," he becomes part of an archaeological excavation at a settlement, as outlined in the magazine.

Osama Al-Eissa's "The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem" is set in Jerusalem during the 1970s when the city's inhabitants faced the challenges of war and famine.

Established in 2007, the IPAF is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism and and has been mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

Its primary objective is to recognize excellence in contemporary Arabic literature and promote a global readership of Arabic literary works.

Each of the six finalists will receive $10,000, and the winner, to be announced on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair in late April, will be awarded an additional $50,000. Furthermore, the prize covers the cost of translating the winning books into English.

* A French version of this article was first published in Al-Ahram Hebdo.