Basim Khandaqji Palestinian Author Imprisoned in Israel Wins Top Arabic Fiction Prize

Basim Khandaqji, a Palestinian author imprisoned two decades ago within Israeli borders, claimed a coveted accolade for Arabic literature on Sunday, clinching the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction with his captivating novel, “A Mask, the Colour of the Sky”. The prestigious honor was bestowed upon him at a distinguished ceremony held in Abu Dhabi.

Representing Khandaqji, Rana Idriss, the proprietor of Dar al-Adab, the novel’s publishing house based in Lebanon, graciously accepted the award. Born in the tumultuous setting of Nablus, situated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in 1983, Khandaqji delved into the realm of storytelling, crafting short narratives until his detainment in 2004 at the tender age of 21.

His confinement stemmed from charges linked to a fatal bombing incident in Tel Aviv. Despite the adversity, Khandaqji pursued his academic endeavors, completing his university studies remotely via the internet while incarcerated.

The titular mask in his novel symbolizes the azure identity card discovered by Nur, an archaeologist residing in a refugee enclave in Ramallah, concealed within the folds of an aged Israeli garment.

Khandaqji’s literary masterpiece emerged triumphant amidst stiff competition, prevailing over 133 submissions vying for recognition.

Nabil Suleiman, presiding over the jury, lauded the novel for its poignant exploration of intricate themes, including familial disintegration, displacement, genocide, and racial prejudice.

Throughout his imprisonment, Khandaqji continued to harness his creative prowess, penning collections of verse such as “Rituals of the First Time” and “The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem.”

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