Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Jailed Palestinian writer wins International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Palestinian author Basim Khandaqji, who has been imprisoned by Israel since 2004, has been named as the winner of the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for his novel A Mask, the Colour of the Sky.

Khandaqji’s publisher Rana Idriss, of the Lebanon-based Dar al-Adab publishing house, accepted the award on his behalf at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

The book tells the story of Nur, an archaeologist living in a Palestinian refugee camp in Ramallah, who adopts a “mask” when he finds a blue identity card belonging to an Israeli in the pocket of an old coat.

Born in Nablus, Khandaqji has been imprisoned by Israel since he was 21 years old. He studied political science at Al-Quds University from prison with a thesis on Israeli studies and has published several poetry collections and novels.

In an interview in January, Khandaqji’s brother said his family had not been able to speak with him for four months, a problem many Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have faced since October 2023.

Khandaqji wrote the award-winning book in prison in 2021, when he would manage to write about two pages each day between 5am and 7am, although “very often, the papers are taken from him and destroyed by the guard”, his brother said.

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