Who are the ‘Arabic Booker’ Nominees? Rabai al-Madhoun

Although Rabai al-Madhoun is in his sixties and has been working as a journalist, critic, and fiction writer since 1972, there is not much available about him in English.

Al-Madhoun’s website–which says that it’s under construction–is in Arabic; it offers a little about the writer’s life and work.  In rough translation:

“I was born in the city of Ashkelon,  located to the north of Gaza, in 1945. My family migrated like the rest of the city’s population during the 1948 war to the Gaza area, and settled in Khan Younis. There, I was educated by the refugee agency UNRWA.”

In the 1970s, al-Madhoun says he was a fighter in the ranks of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But in 1980, he broke with political parties and devoted himself to writing.

His written works include the short story collection, The Idiot of Khan Younis, an academic study, The Palestinian Intifada, and his autobiography, The Taste of Separation. He currently works as an editor for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London.

His novel, The Lady from Tel Aviv, is reviewed here by Al-Sharq al-Awsat, perhaps a bit of a conflict of interest.

The review says:

“Madhoun’s new novel is shorter, and yet denser, than his previous autobiographical novel, A Taste of Separation, published eight years ago. The Lady from Tel Aviv shows that Madhoun, now in his mid-60s, is at the height of his narrative abilities.

What is al-Madhoun’s book about?

The Lady from Tel Aviv:

Raba’i Madhoun tackles the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli issue, focusing on a pivotal time of anxiety and suspicion, with tensions on the point of boiling over. The novel’s protagonists are Palestinian exile Walid Dahman, who is returning home to Gaza after many years in Europe, and Israeli Dana Ahuva, who happens to be sitting next to him on their flight into Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport. Their dialogue takes the reader into the far realms of memory, history and the self. The Lady from Tel Aviv is a novel that, in its complexity, intricacy and ambiguity, avoids the dogma of ready-made ideology.