Kuwait’s “The Bamboo Stock” snatches Arabic ‘Booker’ 2013
ABU DHABI - Kuwaiti author Saud Alsanousi won the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his portrayal of the lives of foreign workers in the Gulf region in his novel “The Bamboo Stalk”.
The 31-year-old writer has become the youngest winner in the $50,000-prize’s six-year history.
“All the judges agreed on the superior quality of this novel, both artistically and also in terms of its social and humanitarian content,” the Panel’s Chair Egyptian writer Galal Amin said.
Alsanousi said that writing his winner novel involved hard work for over a year, noting that he travelled to the Philippines in order to know about life and society there.
The novel focuses on the suffering of the son of a Kuwaiti father and a Filipina mother, and the crisis of identity he faces when he tries to blend in with the Kuwaiti society.
Josephine comes to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a household servant, leaving behind her studies and family, who are pinning their hopes for a better future on her. In the house where she works, she meets Rashid, the spoiled only son of his mother Ghanima and father Issa.
After a brief love affair, he decides to marry Josephine, on condition that the marriage remains a secret. But things do not go according to plan. Josephine becomes pregnant with José and Rashid abandons them when the child is less than two months old, sending his son away to the Philippines.
There he struggles with poverty and clings to the hope of returning to his father's country when he is eighteen. It is at this point that the novel begins.
“The Bamboo Stick” is a daring work which looks objectively at the phenomenon of foreign workers in Arab countries and deals with the problem of identity through the life of a young man of mixed race who returns to Kuwait, the ‘dream’ or ‘heaven’ which his mother had described to him since he was a child.
Saud Alsanousi is a Kuwaiti novelist and journalist, born in 1981. His work has appeared in a number of Kuwaiti publications, including Al-Watan newspaper and Al-Arabi, Al-Kuwait and Al-Abwab magazines.
He currently writes for Al-Qabas newspaper. His first novel The Prisoner of Mirrors was published in 2010 and in the same year won the fourth Leila Outhman Prize, awarded for novels and short stories by young writers.
In the Stories on the Air competition, organised in July 2011 by the Al-Arabi magazine with BBC Arabic, he won first place for his story The Bonsai and the Old Man.
Alsanousi beat five other finalists for the prize. Each finalist, including the winner, will receive $10,000.
The other finalists were Iraqi Sinan Antoon for “Hail Mary”, Tunisian Houcine El Oued for “His Excellency the Minister”, Lebanese author Jana Elhassan for “Me, She and the Other Women”, Saudi Mohammed Hasan Alwan for “The Beaver” and Egyptian Ibrahim Issa for “Our Master”.
The prize is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA, Abu Dhabi), which marks its first year as the new sponsor in 2013.