Kuwaiti Abdullah Husseini wins Ghassan Kanafani Prize for Arabic Fiction | Culture


Kuwaiti novelist Abdullah Husseini on Monday won the third Ghassan Kanafani Prize for Arab Fiction, named after the late Palestinian freedom fighter, who is also known for his contributions to journalism and literature.

Husseini won the award for his novel (Baqi al-Watham), which was published in 2022 by Takween Publications in Kuwait.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture announced in June that five novels had been shortlisted for this year’s competition, including works from Egypt, Tunisia, the Sultanate of Oman, Kuwait and the Palestinian Territories.

“The whole novel is resistance: resistance to self, oppression, impotence, failure and alienation, resistance to marginalization and alienation,” Husseini said in a video announcing the award, which was posted on the Palestinian Ministry of Culture's Facebook page. “It's a resistance to the official narrative, in its simplest form … resistance to ugliness.”

The jury for the prize was formed this year and is chaired by the Moroccan critic and novelist Ahmed Al-Madini and includes Jordanian novelist Samiha Khreis, Egyptian critic Muhammad Al-Shahat, writer Ziad Abu Laban and critic Riyad Kamel, who is from Palestine.

Jury member Riad Kamel said the winning novel “has a good, coherent casting, and a unique ability for a young novelist, only 24 years old, as he is good at describing characters and shaping them into a solid structure, in harmony with time and place, which reminds us of the great writer Ghassan Kanafani who left us at a young age.”

Husseini expressed his happiness over the award in a statement to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), saying that the award means a lot to him for two reasons: first, the award was given by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and its publication comes at a difficult time for Palestinian brothers, and second because its name is that of the writer and activist Ghassan Kanafani, one of the most influential figures in Palestinian journalism and literature.

Husseini explained that his novel, published in 2022 by Takween Publishing House in the State of Kuwait, takes a social format and tells the details of the daily life of a family in Kuwait, and through it explores several themes.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture recently announced the longlist of novels, which includes 14 novels from writers in 10 Arab countries, and then announced the shortlist of novels, which includes 5 novels selected from the 14 novels, namely (2067) by Egyptian novelist Saad Al-Qursh, Palestinian novelist Abdullah Tayeh (Baqi Al-Watham), Kuwaiti novelist Abdullah Al-Husseini (Rabi' Al-Imam), novelist Muhammad Saif Al-Rahbi from the Sultanate of Oman and novelist Nasr Sami from Tunisia (Berltras).

The Ghassan Kanafani Prize for Arabic Fiction, awarded this year on the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of writer Ghassan Kanafani, is considered one of the highest awards in Palestine given to Ghassan Kanafani and for what he represents in the Arab and Palestinian conscience, as well as for his contribution to the Palestinian national movement and cultural engagement in support of Arab and Palestinian identity.

Abdullah Al-Husseini is a Kuwaiti writer and screenwriter, and a member of the Kuwait Writers Association. He holds a bachelor's degree in literature and criticism from the Department of Arabic Language at Kuwait University, and is currently an editor at Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). He won the 2018 Leila Al Othman Story and Fiction Creativity Award for his novel If You Close Your Eyes.

The prize was established by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in 2022 on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani (1936-1972) and was won in the previous two years by Egyptian Amr Hussein and Syrian Mughira al-Huwaidi.

Earlier today, Palestinian writers and the Writers' Union marked the 52nd anniversary of Kanafani's death.

“For years and generations, you have been the bridge of Palestine and the ornament of martyred youth, you have been present in every confrontation because you shed pure blood. You have illuminated the side of our determination, and your departure has not weakened your struggle and creativity, because you are one of the eternal names of Palestine,” the coalition said in a statement.

Kanfani's Palestinian Narrative

Kanafani’s novels are in sync with the story of the Palestinian people; the late Palestinian writer was only 36 when Israel’s Mossad blew up his car in Beirut in 1972.

If Ghassan’s novel is concerned with narrative responses to Palestinian flight and facing death threats, as in Men in the Sun and What’s Left for You, although the two novels differ in revealing the conditions of Palestinian experience and the conditions under which he copes with death threats, then his story – is not even noticed. This moment, which is studied in detail, reveals its uniqueness, distinction and vast human vision – the tragedy of Palestinian life is read as the life of anonymous characters living within the minimum conditions of identity.

The late author Amjad Nasser wrote in an article published by Al Jazeera: “If we read Man in the Sun and What’s Left for You as two novels about the border, we will understand that the novels are full of characters: three generations of Palestinians, the driver, the tanker, the search for… the mother, Zachariah, the traitor who kidnapped Mary.

He added, “She is detached from her relationship to the land that has become the framework of her identity, not to tell the story of Palestine but to discover the impossibility of telling it, so that Said (the head of a Palestinian refugee family in the novel) returns to Haifa and says that what we have left is a narrative of loss.”

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