Abdo Khal: The Arabic Booker Going to Gulf Author ‘a Milestone’

In an interview on Qantara, Arabic-Booker winning Abdo Khal talks about the experience of winning the prize for his She Sends out Sparks or She Throws Sparks or Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles or however you like to translate Tarmi bi Sharar. (Please, though, without the word “spew.”)

The interviewer, Loay Mudhoon, didn’t ask Khal’s opinion about the conspiracy theories dancing around the award. Just a few short queries about Arabic literature in the Gulf. About this, Khal says:

This award represents a milestone for literature in the Gulf region, writing that has long been virtually ignored by the rest of the Arab world.

Hmm. Certainly Abdul Rahman Munif hasn’t been ignored, but, yes, I don’t hear about many authors from the peninsula. Still, Mudhoon could’ve pushed Khal a little more here. How is this literary “periphery” created? How does Khal imagine a resurgence in Gulf literature coming about? Which authors are being ignored, and by what mechanisms?

As Rakha has noted, the emphasis on awarding the Booker to “a writer from the Gulf” (rather than the best book) does play to the conspiracists. But, on the other hand, perhaps on Khal’s part it’s a becoming modesty:

There’s no question that awarding the Booker Prize to a writer from the Gulf region can help to break the monopoly of what is known as the “centre” of Arab culture, particularly as I regard this artificial division of Arab culture into a centre and a periphery – in relation to an historic cultural area such as the Arab world – as undignified.