Youssef Ziedan Takes Home the Arabic Booker
Hip hop hooray to Youssef Ziedan, an Egyptian fiction writer who has just won the second International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel called "Azazeel," which will be translated into English as "Beelzebub."

Giving money to fiction writers makes everybody nervous at first, but eventually, people get used to the idea

The book is about early Christians in Roman Egypt who start all sorts of gang trouble and travel the land in graffitoed chariots being obstreperous and crude, asking "WHAT?" whenever anybody looks at them and shakes their head. The Coptic Christian population of Egypt wanted Ziedan's book banned, which probably means it is good.

The IPAF is an interesting idea: the winner gets $60,000 from UAE culture funds, and the prize is administered by the Booker Foundation to give it legitimacy and taste. The winner also gets a guaranteed translation deal into eight languages, including English. Last year's winner ("Sunset Oasis," by Baha Taher) will be coming out in September, published by Sceptre.

Ziedan's book is about what happens when Christianity is adotped as Roman Egypt's official state religion, about what happens to the Muslims, scientists, heathens, and Jews (the answer is not "nothing"). While most of the villains are Christian (including St. Cyril!), Ziedan sees the novel as "not against Christianity but against violence, especially violence in the name of the sacred," according to the Guardian.

The IPAF is one of the more lucrative prizes out there for fiction writers. Even the shortlisted winners get ten grand.

Posted by miracle on Fri, 03 Apr 2009 21:32:53 -0400 -- permanent link

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