Author Dr. Shukri Makhbout won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction yesterday with his debut novel 'The Italian'.
Born in Tunisia in 1962, Makhbout holds a doctorate in literature from the Arts College of Manouba, Tunisia and is head of the Manouba University.
In his acceptance speech, Makhbout dedicated his prize to 'the women of Tunisia who have always been at the frontline of battling injustice and oppression'.
The debut novel has faced major reactions since its release and the author has found his work banned both in his native country as well as in the UAE, the country in which the award was presented yesterday. Several sources though confirm that the novel 'The Italian' will be available in few quantities at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair which opens today.
In a session that I attended at the New York University in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Makhbout explained that he had written his novel because he was motivated by the idea of the Islamisation of the state and his horror and fear of what that would do to the history of the region. It also stemmed from a genuine interest at how much stat-run media is a powerful tool in controlling the people. He also pointed the utter frustration he feels towards his generation that 'failed to achieve what they had initially positively set out to do- to build nations- and yet managed to end up with the way things are today in the Arab World'.
The author's win means a guaranteed English translation.
For more on the prize, click HERE.
About the novel:
At the heart of 'The Italian' is Abdel Nasser (nicknamed 'the Italian') and his mysterious assault on the man, his neighbour, during his father's funeral. The book's narrator attempts to uncover the motivations behind the attack, reconstructing his friend Abdel Nasser's troubled history from childhood. It looks at Abdel Nasser's time as a left-wing student at the University of Tunis, during the final years of the Bourguiba era and the beginning of Ben Ali's, through to the period of radical changes that subsequently rocked Tunisian society, when the dreams of a generation were torn apart by the fierce struggle between the Islamists and the Left. The novel reveals the mechanisms of control and censorship exercised through the press as well as the fragility of human beings, their secret histories and buried wounds.