Expatica news

Algerian author wins top Arab fiction prize for ‘Spartan Court’

Algerian author Abdelouahab Aissaoui on Tuesday won a prestigious prize for Arabic fiction with his novel “The Spartan Court”.

Backed by the UK’s Booker Prize Foundation, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is financed by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism.

Aissaoui will receive $50,000 and funds will be provided to translate the book into English, the organisers said on their website.

Published by Dar Mim, “The Spartan Court” is a historical novel that relates the power struggle between Ottoman and French colonial powers in Algeria at the start of the 19th century.

Born in the northern Algerian city of Djelfa in 1985, Aissaoui graduated in electromechanical engineering before devoting himself to writing, penning several books and receiving many awards.

The Spartan Court “invites the reader to gain a greater understanding of live under occupation and the different forms of resistance that grow against it,” said Muhsin al-Musawi, chair of the prize’s five-member judging panel.

“With its deep, historical narrative structure, the novel does not live in the past, but rather it challenges the reader to question present reality,” he added, in remarks published on the IPAF website.

“The Spartan Court” was chosen from a shortlist of six novels. The five other authors, from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria will each receive $10,000, the organisers said.

They said one aim of the prize, conceived in Abu Dhabi in 2007, is to promote the translation of Arabic literature into English.

Due to movement restrictions imposed by UAE authorities to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the winner was announced online.

Abu Dhabi, capital of the emirate of the same name, has become an increasingly significant cultural hub and hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.