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Omani novel on water wins top Arabic fiction prize

By AFP - May 22,2023 - Last updated at May 22,2023

ABU DHABI — Omani poet and novelist Zahran Alqasmi was named on Sunday winner of the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction with his book “The Water Diviner”.

Alqasmi, 49, will receive $50,000, and the prize committee will provide funding to translate the novel into English, organisers of the annual award said on their website.

“The Water Diviner” tells the story of Omani villager Salem bin Abdullah, hired by his community to find groundwater reserves.

It touches on issues of water scarcity and extreme weather events such as floods.

“’The Water Diviner’ by Zahran Alqasmi explores a new subject in modern fiction: Water and its impact on the natural environment and the lives of human beings in hostile regions,” Mohammed Achaari, chairman of the judges’ panel, said in a statement.

Alqasmi, who has published four novels and 10 poetry collections, is the first Omani winner of the prize, now in its 16th year.

He was announced this year’s winner at a ceremony in the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi.

In an interview for the prize’s website, Alqasmi said the book had an additional focus: “On how women also caused changes in the life of the main protagonist.”

Five other shortlisted authors, from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya and Egypt, will each receive $10,000, the organisers said.

The award is supported by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, which has taken steps to position itself as a cultural hub.

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