“Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table” by leading Libyan novelist Mohamed Alnaas has been announced as the winner of the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).
The novel, published by Rashm, was named this year’s winner by Judge Chairman Shukri Mabkhout at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi which was also streamed online.
In addition to receiving $50,000, funding will be provided for the English translation of Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table, and Mohamed Alnaas can expect to see increased book sales and international recognition.
Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table is a unique story based in Libya. In the closed society of his village, Milad strives to live up to the definition of ideal masculinity, as his society sees it. However, after all his efforts, he fails to be “a man” and, after meeting his sweetheart and future wife, Zeinab, decides to forget this definition and be himself.
Living at home, he performs the tasks that his society reserves for women, while Zeinab works and supports the family. Milad doesn’t know how he is made fun of in the village until his nephew tells him. Uncle Milad’s Bread on the Table challenges the static ideas of gender and defends the individual against the destructive ideas embraced by the majority.
Mohamed Alnaas is a Libyan short story writer and journalist, born in 1991. He graduated with a BA in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tripoli in 2014, and his short story collection Blue Blood was published in 2020.
Pain sur la table de l’oncle Milad (2021) is his first novel and he wrote it in just six months during confinement and while Tripoli was under bombardment. He says writing the book was his “refuge from madness” amid the news of Covid and the war.
At 31, Alnaas is the youngest writer to win the International Prize for Arab Fiction and the first from Libya. Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad was published with the support of the Libyan Arete Foundation.
The bread on the table of Uncle Milad was chosen by the judges as the best work of fiction published in Arabic between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. It was chosen from a shortlist of six author novels from Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman and, for the first time, the UAE.
Shukri Mabkhout, chair of the 2022 judges, said, “The winning novel is written in the form of confessions of personal experience.
“Its plethora of detail is skillfully unified by a gripping narrative. It offers a deep and meticulous critique of the dominant concepts of masculinity and femininity and the division of labor between men and women, and their effects both psychologically and socially.
It falls into the category of novels that challenge cultural norms about gender.
However, it fits into its local Arab context and steers clear of any ideological treatment of the issues, as such treatment would run counter to the way fiction can present multiple viewpoints.
Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said: “Bread on the table from Uncle Milad is the gripping story of one man, Milad, who reflects on his life as it unfolds in an outwardly fractured but perfectly braided continuum at the subterranean level. The story takes the reader effortlessly through Milad’s journey, with its many twists and turns, revealing his alienation from the norms of a society that values a virile interpretation of masculinity.
“Never altered, the language of the novel is an excellent testimony to the malleability of the high register of the Arabic language and its ability to deal with the intimate affairs of body and soul with naturalness and ease. At times melancholy, but always lyrical, the narrative manages to evoke a conflicting cultural fabric that merges time and place in a Libyan milieu that speaks to and for Arabs around the world.
The shortlisted finalists – Khalid Al-Nassrallah, Tareq Imam, Reem al-Kamali, Bushra Khalfan and Mohsine Loukili – will each receive $10,000.
The five-judge jury was chaired by Tunisian novelist, scholar and former IPAF (The Italian, 2015) winner Shukri Mabkhout. He was accompanied by Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, Lebanese writer and PEN International board member Iman Humaydan, Kuwaiti poet and critic Saadiah Mufarreh and Bulgarian scholar and translator Baian Rayhanova.