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Prisoner in Israel, a Palestinian receives the International Prize for Arab Fiction

A Palestinian novelist detained in Israeli prisons since 2004 won the International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF), one of the most prestigious literary awards in the Arab world, on Sunday, organizers announced.

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Prisoner in Israel, a Palestinian receives the International Prize for Arab Fiction

A Palestinian novelist detained in Israeli prisons since 2004 won the International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF), one of the most prestigious literary awards in the Arab world, on Sunday, organizers announced.

Basim Khandaqji, 41, won the prize for his novel Mask, the Color of the Sky which tells the story of Nour, an archaeologist living in a refugee camp in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who finds the identity card blue from an Israeli in the pocket of an old coat. He adopts this new identity, or this "mask", to try to understand the Israeli "occupier".

In the absence of the author, the award was presented to the owner of the publishing house based in Lebanon, during a ceremony in Abu Dhabi. According to the president of this year's jury, Nabil Suleiman, the novel "dissects a complex and bitter reality of family fragmentation, displacement, genocide and racism." The novelist was arrested in 2004 for “terrorist activities” at the age of 21. He was sentenced to three cumulative life sentences for having “planned and participated in a suicide attack” in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reported in February when Basim Khandaqji's novel was selected for the IPAF.

During his incarceration, the novelist completed his studies in political science at Al-Quds University and wrote several collections of poems in addition to his award-winning novel. The winner receives $50,000 and funding will be made available by IPAF for the English translation of their novel, according to organizers. The IPAF award ceremony this year coincided with the devastating war in the Gaza Strip, triggered by the bloody attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement on Israeli territory on October 7.

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