It was on Tuesday 23 April that the organizers of the Booker Foundation’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction unveiled the name of the winner in Abu Dhabi. The Booker Arab Prize, a prestigious distinction, was awarded to the Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat, for her sixth novel Bârid al-layl, published by Dar al-Adab in 2017 and translated by Actes Sud by Philippe Vigreux, under the title Courrier de nuit .
Currently in the United States, where she is teaching for a semester at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, Hoda Barakat shares the joy of this international literary recognition with L’Orient-Le Jour: “I am very happy because this price is important, it allows you to be visible everywhere in the Arab world, but I am very far from this region, both physically and mentally. I feel a little foreign to the cultural atmospheres. It makes me really happy that my epistolary novel is rewarded, because my reader is Arab, and I write in Arabic. In Courrier de nuit, the author stages marginalized people who survive on the edge of society, through a series of letters, the majority of which will never be read by the intended recipient. “There are many of those whom life forcibly throws into the margins of isolation and locks up, condemned to compulsory relegation, in the enclosure of the invisible, where they see no one and where no one sees them. In this epistolary chain of missed appointments, where the loneliness of beings locks them up with their own demons, epistolary writing seems to be the ultimate existential leap, “because of this need we have for someone to listen to us and decides to forgive us whatever we have to reproach ourselves for”.
When translating the book, the author of La Pierre du rire had insisted on the correspondence between her characters: “These are passers-by, displaced people who have no weight, no one is interested in them: no weight economic, social, family… Only the artistic approach, here romantic, can approach these individuals, and tell how complex this approach is. »
“He is the one whose soul…”
When asked if she has any idea of the reasons behind the jury’s choice, the novelist from Becharré does not lose her sense of relativity. “The members of the jury change every year, so it all depends on their criteria, their way of reading, and it’s ultimately quite random, like all prizes in the world. The critics who participated in the decision expressed with great esteem their respect and deep understanding of the book, I believe I was lucky that they were particularly serious and respectable. I have no other explanation to offer. Hoda Barakat believes that the ideal reader, “is the one whose soul resembles my soul, the one who communicates with me on the same literary sensitivity, because I seek to transmit a certain artistic sensitivity, and a little human”. The Arab Booker 2019 has just confirmed the resounding success of his creative approach. Created in Abu Dhabi in 2007, the prize – endowed with 50,000 dollars – is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which will also translate and publish in English the finalist work. The jury of this twelfth edition, chaired by the Moroccan researcher and critic Charafdin Majdolin, is composed of the Saudi poets and writers Fowziyah Abu Khalid and the Jordanian Zulaikha Aburisha, the Lebanese academician and critic Latif Zeitouni and the Chinese academician and translator Zhang Yong Yi. This is the second time that a Lebanese author has received this award. In 2012, the Lebanese novelist Rabih Jaber received this award for his book Hikayat Hanna Yacub (al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi), published by Gallimard under the title Les Druzes de Belgrade (translation Simon Corthay and Charlotte Woillez). Hoda Barakat was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and was also named Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2002 and Knight of the Order of National Merit in 2008.
Hoda Barakat: Since I left Lebanon, I go there through my texts in Arabic
It was on Tuesday 23 April that the organizers of the Booker Foundation’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction unveiled the name of the winner in Abu Dhabi. The Booker Arab Prize, a prestigious distinction, was awarded to the Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat, for her sixth novel Bârid al-layl, published by Dar al-Adab in 2017 and translated by Actes Sud by Philippe Vigreux,…
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Hoda Barakat: This award brings me closer to the Arab world