Europa Editions To Publish World English Translation of Khandaqji’s ‘Mask’

In News by Porter Anderson

Europa’s Michael Reynolds says that Basim Khandaqji’s IPAF-winning novel ‘A Mask’ can ‘reach substantial, appreciative audiences’ in English.

An excerpt from the Dar al-Adab original Arabic edition of Basim Khandaqji’s ‘A Mask, the Color of the Sky,’ which on April 28 won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also:
Jailed Palestinian Basim Khandaqji Wins the 2024 Arabic Fiction Prize

‘Important We Publish and Read More Palestinian Voices’
In our report from the United Arab Emirates on April 28, Publishing Perspectives carried the news that the highly influential International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) had named the imprisoned Palestinian author Basim Khandaqji its 2024 winner for his novel, A Mask, the Color of the Sky from Dar al-Adab.

Today (May 9), we have the news that the New York City- and Italy-based Europa Editions has announced that it has world English rights to publish a translation of the book. The English edition of the book doesn’t yet have a release date, nor has a translator been identified to us as yet, but a company spokesperson tells us that the book is likely to be a 2026 release.

Sandro Ferri, publisher of Europa Editions, acquired world English rights prior to the book’s win of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. earlier this year from Rana Idriss at award-winning publisher Dar al-Adab.

Khandaqji is the third Palestinian writer to win this prestigious annual honor in Arabic fiction (past winners are listed below, the Palestinians being Ibrahim Nasrallah and Rabai al-Madhoun).

He was one of two Palestinians on this year’s shortlist, the other being Osama Al Eissa for The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem from the publisher Al Mutawassit.

Basim Khandaqji

While a prisoner, Khandaqji reportedly has taken a degree in political science from Al-Quds University, writing his thesis on Israeli studies. He has also continued writing work that includes articles about literature, politics, women Palestinian activists, and inmates of Israeli prisons. He has published  several poetry collections, including Rituals of the First Time (2010) and The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem (2013).

Our colleague Saeed Saeed reports for the UAE-based regional news medium The National that Khandaqji—who is a native of Nablus, born there in 1983—”was arrested on terrorism charges by Israeli authorities in 2004 and convicted of planning and participating in a bombing at Tel Aviv’s Camel Market that killed three people and injured dozens more.

“He is serving three life sentences in an Israeli prison.”

Michael Reynolds: ‘Timely, Strong on Plot and Readability’

Europa Editions’ editor-in-chief Michael Reynolds, on the news that Europa will publish such a high-interest translation among its many other successes, compliments the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, saying, “In recent years, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction has had a great track record for recognizing books that remain literary while appealing to a broad readership.

Michael Reynolds

“Timely, strong on plot and readability, A Mask, the Color of the Sky is a prime example.

“It’s important we publish and read more Palestinian voices at this time. It’s even more important that those voices reach substantial, appreciative audiences. I think Basim’s book will do precisely that.”

The novel, in Europa’s summary, tells the story of Nur, a Palestinian archeologist living the Ramallah refugee camp who, after finding a sky-blue Israeli ID, assumes a new identity, one that gives him access to an unimagined world of opportunities but also provokes a profound personal schism.

Other works by Khandaqji, imprisoned by the Israelis since he was 21, are  Rituals of the First Time (2010); The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem (2013); and The Narcissus of Isolation (2017); as well as novels, including The Eclipse of Badr al-Din (2019); and The Breath of a Woman Let Down (2020).

As happens, of course, when the output of the world publishing industry comes so close to current events with fiction, the announcement of Khandaqji’s win has attracted perhaps more international press coverage than is common for this award, which is supported by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

At CNN, Radina Gigova and Sarah Sirgany last week wrote of Khandaqji’s brother Yousef attending the award announcement in Abu Dhabi. “Speaking on behalf of my dear brother,” Yousef Khandaqji said, “he dedicates this victory to all the Palestinian people. I miss him every day, and he is in our hearts every day.”

See also:
At Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: Diwan’s New Naguib Mahfouz Book Covers

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is here, and more on publishing and book prizes in general is here. More on translation is here, and more on Arabic in the publishing world is here. More on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, and more on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.