Lebanon Daily Star
'De Niro's Game' by Lebanese-Canadian Rawi Hage is among the nominees
By Daily Star staff
DUBLIN: Three Arab authors were among eight short-listed for one of the world's most valuable prizes for a single work of fiction in English. Established 13 years ago to underline the Irish capital's importance as an artistic center, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is worth 100,000 euros ($156,400).
Contenders for this year's literary prize are "De Niro's Game" by Lebanese author, visual artist and curator Rawi Hage, Israeli-Arab Sayed Kashua's "Let it Be Morning" and "The Attack" by Algeria's Yasmina Khadra (the pseudonym of Mohammad Moulessehoul).
"The themes of the 2008 short-listed titles are international and include war, love, terrorism, politics, religion, family and murder," says Deirdre Ellis King, Dublin city librarian. Short-listed books are nominated by public libraries in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and the US.
Hage's novel relates the story of his narrator, Bassam, and his childhood best friend George. Both men have grown up in Civil War Beirut and now must choose whether to stay in the Lebanese capital and consolidate power through crime or to go into exile overseas.
Bassam chooses to embark on a series of petty crimes to pay for his emigration. George enriches himself in the Beirut demimonde, embracing the profitable but deadly and drug-laced life of a gunman.
The IMPAC Dublin Award shortlist was whittled down from 137 titles. Other title are "Winterwood," by Ireland's Patrick McCabe, "The Speed of Light" by Spaniard Javier Cercas, "The Sweet and Simple Kind" by Yasmine Gooneraratne from Sri Lanka, "Dreams of Speaking" by Australian Gail Jones and "The Woman Who Waited" by Andrei Makine, a Russian.
In Kashua's "Let it Be Morning," a young Palestinian journalist moves his new wife and infant to his parents' Israeli-Arab village. The move is complicated, both because his wife hates her husband's parents and because the villagers prove themselves to be petty, provincial and neurotically torn between their Palestinian sympathies and dependence on the Israelis. The tension within the village is stretched to the breaking point when it is surrounded by Israeli tanks, cutting it off from the outside world.
In 2007, Norway's Per Petterson and his translator Anne Born won last year's IMPAC Dublin Award prize for the novel "Out Stealing Horses." Petterson beat South African Nobel-laureate J.M. Coetzee and Indian-born British writer Salman Rusdie, as well as bestseller "No Country for Old Men" by America's Cormac McCarthy. The 2006 prizes was taken by Irish writer Colm Toibin for his book "The Master."
Khadra's "The Attack" is also set in occupied Palestine. Its central character is Ammine, an Israeli-Arab surgeon who works in an Occupied Jerusalem hospital. When Israeli police blame his Israeli-Arab wife for a suicide operation he is baffled until he finds she was behind the attack. He travels to Nazareth and Gaza, in an effort to uncover her motives. In the process, Amine finds everything he's understood about his life has become tragically undermined.
The IMPAC Dublin Award's jury members are Nigerian-born novelist and teacher Helon Habila; Jamaican-born professor of contemporary literature at the University of Manchester Patricia Duncker; Pakistan-born short story-writer Aamer Hussein; Irish writer Eibhlin Evans and Majorcan lawyer and writer Jose Luis de Juan. Former US Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eugene R. Sullivan chairs the competition's panel of judges.
Dublin City Council and the Dublin-headquartered US management company IMPAC set up the prize. The legal disclaimer on its Web site says IMPAC is "a registered trademark owned by Integrated Control Systems, Inc., a Florida corporation" chaired by James B. Irwin.
The company's Web site says that IMPAC works with "60 different countries, with over 600 companies and organizations" to reduce costs and increase productivity. Other interventions in the area of cultural production include IMPAC University (founded in December 1998) and the IMPAC Connecticut State University System Young Writers' Competition.
The winner the 2008 the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award will be announced by Dublin's Lord Mayor, Paddy Bourke, on June 12. - The Daily Star with Reuters