Palestinian writer from Gaza wins Arabic Booker


Palestinian author, Rabai al-Madhoun, who is also a British citizen, won the International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF), for a novel about the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe in Arabic) in 1948 and the Holocaust.

Al-Madhoun’s book, “Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Nakba,” refers to what is known in Arabic as the Nakba (catastrophe), the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestine under the British-mandate following the creation of Israel in 1948 after the Holocaust.

The novel has stories from five Palestinian cities, al-Madhoun said in several interviews.

“It took me to my hometown, al-Majdal in Ashkelon. I roamed Haifa. I shouted from Mount Kermel: Oh, how did we lose this country!”

Al-Madhoun told “The Culture Trip” blog in a recent interview that he was born in the Gazan refugee camp of Khan Younis, and traveled to Egypt for his studies right before the 1967 Six Day War.

He later became a British citizen.

He ended up being deported from Egypt, and went to Syria, and then to Jordan and several other Middle Eastern countries before landing in London, he said in the interview.

His first book was a memoir, “The Lady from Tel Aviv,” published in English, about a returning Palestinian exile’s chance encounter with an Israeli actress on his flight home.

It was shortlisted for the same prize in 2010.

He told the IPAF website that his real celebration for winning the prize will be with his colleagues at “Al Sharq al Awsat,” the newspaper where he works.

He’ll also celebrate in Ramallah for a Palestinian book fair and then in Haifa, the central city to the novel, he said.

“There’s a lot of expectation about being in Haifa and celebrating there,” he said.

The $50,000 award, given to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing, is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London, and funded by the Abu Dabi Tourism & Culture Authority in the United Arab Emirates.

Although the prize is often referred to as the “Arabic Booker,” the two organizations are separate and IPAF is not in any way connected with the Man Booker Prize, according to the foundation website.