Muscat: Omani poet and novelist Zahran Al Qasmi was named the winner of the prestigious 16th edition of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for 2023 for his book ‘The Exile of the Water Diviner’ on Sunday.
The novel was named as this year’s winner by Chair of Judges Moroccan writer and novelist Mohammed Achaari during a ceremony in Abu Dhabi that was also streamed online, according to an IPAF statement on its website.
Besides Achaari, the panel of judges included Egyptian academic and novelist Reem Bassiouney, Algerian novelist, researcher and journalist Fadhila El Farouk, Swedish university professor and translator Tetz Rooke, and Omani writer and academic Aziza Al Ta’i – as well as Yassin Adnan, an IPAF Trustee, and prize administrator Fleur Montanaro.
Al Qasmi won $50,000 as prize money and will also receive funding for an English translation. Published in 2021, The Exile of the Water Diviner is Al Qasmi’s fourth novel.
“The novel by Zahran Al Qasmi explores a new subject in modern fiction: water and its impact on the natural environment and the lives of human beings in hostile regions. Blurring the boundaries of reality and myth, the novel’s precise structure and sensitive poetic language are the conduit for compelling characters like the water diviner, who plays an essential role in people’s lives, yet simultaneously inspires their fear and revulsion,” Achaari, Chair of the 2023 Judges, said in the statement.
“The Exile of the Water Diviner transports us to the world, little known in the Arabic novel, of the riverbeds and the aflaj (water channels) of Oman, showing how natural forces influence the relationship between individuals, environment and culture,” Achaari added.
Zahran Al Qasmi is an Omani poet and novelist, born in Dima Wattayeen in the Sultanate of Oman in 1974. He has published four novels: Mountain of the Horseradish Tree (2013), The Sniper (2014), Hunger for Honey (2017), and Exile of the Water Diviner (2021), as well as ten poetry collections and Biography of the Stone 1 (short story collection, 2009) and Biography of the Stone 2 (non-fiction, 2011).
The Exile of the Water Diviner was selected by the judges from those submitted to the prize as the best novel published in Arabic between July 2021 and June 2022. It was chosen from a shortlist of six by authors from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The six shortlisted finalists before the winner was announced were Siddik Hadj-Ahmed, Azher Jirjees, Najwa Binshatwan, Miral al-Tahawy, Fatima Abdulhamid, and Zahran Al Qasmi .