International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlistees: Fawaz Haddad

Syrian author Fawaz Haddad is the only author on the 2011 IPAF longlist who has been previously been a shortlistee. Haddad made the prize’s shortlist for his 2008 novel The Unfaithful Translator.

He’s shortlisted this year for his novel God’s Soldiers.

Haddad, who has written four novels in the last four years, has been called one of the region’s boldest contemporary writers.

Nadia Muhanna  writes in Syria Today:

The Unfaithful Translator is officially banned in Syria, although relatively easy to come by. Unfazed by the controversy, Haddad says his favourite literary themes remain corruption and censorship, as well as political and military coups.

The author told her:

I don’t take censorship into account when I’m writing my novels. My real problem is with inner censorship. I often have to face myself and wonder to what extent I, as a novelist, can overcome my own set of axioms and beliefs and if I have the courage to question them in the first place.

Fawaz Haddad was born in Damascus, and told Muhanna “I consider Damascus to be one of the main characters in my novels.” He graduated in law from Damascus University, and then worked at several jobs, including one in a pharmacy and another as an import-export trader. He published his first book in 1991 and is now a full-time writer.

He advised patience and reading for other would-be authors:

To write a good book you need a lot of intellect, reading and life experience. This is why, even though I started writing at the age of 14, I only published my first book after the age of 40.

The Unfaithful Translator has—to my knowledge—not yet been translated into English. But Max Weiss, history professor at Princeton and the translator of Iman Humaydan’s B as in Beirut, has been working on a translation of Haddad’s 2009 novel, A Solo Performance on Piano.

According to IPAF organizers, God’s Soldiers is:

…an action-packed story set in modern-day Iraq, [in which] a father goes in search of his son who has joined Al-Qaeda, hoping to take him back to Syria. Despite the protection of the American and Syrian Secret Services, the father is kidnapped by his adversaries and, along the way, finds himself in an audience with the real-life character Abu Muses al-Zarqawi, once Iraq’s most notorious insurgent.


The National (English)

Syria Today (English)


The Unfaithful Translator (2008)


Al-Ahram Weekly (English)

Solo Piano Music (2009)

Author Ahmed Khalifa’s blog (English)

God’s Soldiers (2010)

Dar al-Hayat

Previously profiled: Egyptian Miral al-Tahawy, longlisted for her Brooklyn Heights and Bensalam Himmich, longlisted for My Tormentor. See the full longlist here.