Wednesday May 22nd, 2024
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Jailed Palestinian Author Basem Khandaqji Wins International Award

Khandaqji’s novel, ‘A Mask, the Color of the Sky’, is the 2024 winner of the International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Catherine Johnson

Jailed Palestinian Author Basem Khandaqji Wins International Award

Basim Khandaqji’s 2023 novel, ‘A Mask, the Color of the Sky’, has been awarded the 2024 International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction. Published in 2023, the novel follows the life of a Palestinian archaeologist living in a refugee camp in Ramallah who finds the identity card of an Israeli citizen. Nabil Suleiman, chairman of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, lauded Khandaqji for creating a portrayal of compassion despite dehumanisation in a novel that skillfully balances the political and the personal as it dissects displacement, genocide and racism.

Khandaqji, who has been imprisoned by Israel since 2004, was unable to receive the award in person. The author is currently serving three life sentences for terrorism charges connected to a bombing at Tel Aviv’s camel market. His award was accepted by Rana Idriss, the founder of Dar Al Adab, the publishing company that released ‘A Mask, the Color of the Sky’, through whom Khandaqji thanked the judges of the award and his family, who he called the source of his strength. In a January interview, his brother revealed that Khandaqji had not been in contact with his family for four months.

Khandaqji has written several other books, including ‘The Eclipse of Badr Al-Din’ (2019), and ‘The Breath of a Woman Let Down’ (2020). He has also written several poetry collections, titled ‘Rituals of the First Time’ (2010), ‘The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem’ (2013) and ‘The Narcissus of Isolation’ (2017). Khandaqji has also published articles about literature, politics, female Palestinian activists, and prisoners inside Israeli prisons.

The International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction is one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the Arab world. It was established in 2008 and awards USD 50,000 to its winner, as well as USD 10,000 to its six shortlisted authors. ‘A Mask, the Color of the Sky’ was one of two Palestinian novels shortlisted for this prestigious prize; the other, ‘The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem’, was written by Osama Al Eissa.

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