Looking at the Longlist: ‘Bamboo Stalk’ Examines Race in Kuwait

Saud Alsanousi is one of the youngest on the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) longlist — he was born in 1981 — and is also the first Kuwaiti novelist to have work recognized by the award. 

bamboostalkHe is also a journalist, and his work has appeared in a number of Kuwaiti publications, including Al-WatanAl-ArabiAl-Kuwait, Al-Abwab, and Al-Qabas. His debut novel, The Prisoner of Mirrors, came out in 2010 and won that year’s Leila Othman Prize, awarded for novels and short stories by young writers. He also won first place in the 2011 BBC/Al-Arabi “Stories on the Air” competition, for “The Bonsai and the Old Man.”

Alsanousi also just won a Kuwait State Appreciation and Encouragement Award this month for his Bamboo Stalk (2012), the same novel longlisted for the IPAF.

As you may have already noticed, Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Farghali chose The Bamboo Stalk as one of his favorite reads of 2012. The novel follows José, child of a Filipina, Josephine, and a Kuwaiti, Rashid. The father abandons his infant son, who returns to the Philippines with his mother. At eighteen, José returns to Kuwait to face a racially stratified society. Farghali said:

Regarding the books I read this year, I can mention a very good novel by a young Kuwaiti writer So’od Al Sanousi’s Bamboo Stalk (2012). It is a very well-written novel about a young half-Kuwaiti, half-Filipino guy who spent his early years in the Philippines then went back to his father’s country, Kuwait, to face his destiny in a very racially conscious society. The novel draws a very good and detailed picture of both cultures and of the contradictions in both of them. I liked it a lot.

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