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Israeli-Imprisoned Palestinian Writer Wins Arabic Fiction Prize

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In a significant literary achievement, Palestinian writer Basim Khandaqji, who has been incarcerated in Israel for the past 20 years, was honored with the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel "A Mask, the Colour of the Sky". The announcement of the 2024 prize took place during a ceremony held in Abu Dhabi.

Born in Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in 1983, Khandaqji had been actively involved in writing short stories until his arrest in 2004 at the age of 21. He was convicted and imprisoned on charges related to a fatal bombing in Tel Aviv. Despite his incarceration, Khandaqji continued his education, completing his university studies through online courses while in jail.

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"A Mask, the Colour of the Sky" delves into the intricate narrative of Nur, an archaeologist residing in a refugee camp in Ramallah, who stumbles upon a blue identity card belonging to an Israeli while exploring an old coat. The novel, chosen from among 133 submissions, captivated the judging panel with its poignant exploration of themes such as family fragmentation, displacement, genocide, and racism.

The prize was accepted on Khandaqji's behalf by Rana Idriss, the owner of Dar al-Adab, the book's publisher based in Lebanon. Nabil Suleiman, who chaired the jury, commended the novel for its incisive portrayal of a complex and bitter reality.

Despite his incarceration, Khandaqji has remained prolific in his literary pursuits, penning poetry collections such as "Rituals of the First Time" and "The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem". His recognition with the International Prize for Arabic Fiction underscores the enduring power of literature to transcend physical boundaries and amplify voices that might otherwise remain unheard.

April 29, 2024 3:19 p.m. 3788

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