Tunisian novelist Shukri Mabkhout wins the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction
The Italian, by Shukri Mabkhout, was announced as the winner of the eighth International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) on Wednesday 6 May 2015. The Italian, published by Dar Tanweer Tunis,was named winner by this year’s Chair of Judges, award-winning Palestinian poet and writer Mourid Barghouti, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi. In addition to winning $50,000, Shukri Mabkhout is guaranteed an English translation of his novel, as well as an expected increase in book sales and international recognition.
Set in Tunis, The Italian tells the story of Abdel Nasser, nicknamed ‘the Italian’ due to his good looks. Against the backdrop of the protagonist’s political and amatory exploits, the book sheds light on Tunisia’s recent complex history, in particular the troubled transition from the Bourguiba era to the government of Ben Ali in the late 1980s. In a recent interview, Mabkhout told how he was inspired to write the novel by the events of the Arab Spring: “Two years into the revolution . . . I remembered a recent period of Tunisia’s history that is similar in its fears, changes and conflicts to what I was witnessing and living: it was the period of transition from the reign of Bourguiba to that of Ben Ali following the 1987 coup.” Mabkhout, who has just turned 53, was born in Tunis in 1962 and currently resides there, where he is President of Manouba University. A well-known academic and intellectual, he has written several works of literary criticism, but this is his first novel.
The Italian was selected as the best work of fiction published within the last 12 months, selected from 180 entries from 15 countries across the Arab World. On behalf of the 2015 judging panel,
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