By Edward Nawotka
Fiction writing in Arabic has suffered from neglect in international circles, with most of the attention going to poets or political manifestos. But things are starting to change and Western-style workshops are popping up around the Middle East.
Over the next nine days, seven promising young Arabic writers will be taking part in a unique writers workshop in Abu Dhabi. Dubbed “Nadwa” (which translates as “workshop”) and sponsored by International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which has come to be known as the “Arab Booker,” the workshop aims to produce original pieces of fiction that will then be translated into Arabic for international distribution.
The first Nadwa workshop was held last November and the resulting works were published in English and Arabic by Dar Al Saqi Books in Emerging Arab Voices 1, which will be launched at Sharjah International Book Fair on October 27 and published in the UK in January 2011.
Over the course of the workshop, each writer will produce a new piece of creative writing, either a short story or a chapter of a novel of around 3,000 words. They will be mentored by Egyptian novelist and journalist Mansoura Ez Eldin, whose novel Beyond Paradise was shortlisted for the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and Jabbour Douaihy, who was shortlisted for the Prize in 2008 for June Rain.
The participating writers in this year’s workshop are all in their 30s and include, Wajdi al-Ahdal from Yemen, Mariam Al Saedi, a UAE writer who contributed to the collection of translated UAE writing, In a Fertile Desert; Akram Msallam, Palestinian novelist based in Jordan; Rania Mamoun, a Sudanese TV and print journalist; Anis Arrafai, a Moroccan author who specializes in experimental short stories; Lina Hawyana al-Hasan, a published Syrian novelist who writes about Bedu life and Tareq Emam, a prize-winning Egyptian novelist.