Libyan novelist Ibrahim al-Koni received in Cairo the Arab Novel Award and dedicated the value of the prize to the children of the Tuareg tribes from which he originally hails.
At the closing ceremony of the fifth round of the Cairo Novel Conference, prominent Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni was chosen from 23 competitors to receive the Arab Novel Award, whose value is 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,000).
“Koni was chosen for his ability to breathe life into the desert on the human, natural, spiritual, and mythological levels,” said Syrian critic Sobhi Hadeedi, who headed the jury. The committee in charge of choosing the winner praised Koni’s ability to utilize folklore, oral tradition, death rituals, and aspects of everyday life in order to create a literary work.
“He creates his own individual anthropology,” added the committee statement.
Ibrahim al-Koni is a Libyan Tuareg who writes in Arabic. He studied comparative literature at the Gorky Institute in Moscow, and was a journalist in Moscow and Warsaw. He has lived in Switzerland since 1993, and authored over 50 novels, short stories, poems and aphorisms, all inspired by the desert. Some works have been translated into 35 languages, including eight into German and six into French.
Children of Tuareg
Upon receiving the prize from Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, Koni announced that he wants to donate the money to the children of the Tuareg, the tribes that inhabit the desert interior of North Africa and from which he also hails. Koni specified that he wanted the Tuareg children in Niger and Mali to be the beneficiaries of his award. Ibrahim al-Koni, born in 1948 in the desert town of Ghadames in the Fezzan region in southwestern Libya, studied comparative literature at the Russian Maxim Gorky Literature Institute and worked as a journalist in Warsaw and Moscow.
He wrote all his books in Arabic, which he learnt when he was twelve, and his novels were translated into 35 languages.
Koni is the recipient of numerous awards, on top of which is the Swiss State Award for his novel Bleeding of the Stone in 1995, the Libyan State Award for all his work in 1996, and the Japanese Translation Committee Award for his novel Gold Dust in 1997. He also received the French Order for Literature and Arts in 2006 and the Sheikh Zayyed Book Award in 2007.
Saudi author Abdul Rahman Munif received the first Arab Novel Award, given every two years, followed in 2003 by Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim, who refused to receive the award from a government that “does not possess the credibility to grant it.” In 2005, the third award went to Sudanese author Tayyeb Saleh and the fourth in 2008 to Egyptian author Edward al-Kharrat.