International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist Countdown: Reading ’God’s Land of Exile’

ArabLit and 7iber are jointly covering this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) – in English and Arabic — beginning with reviews of the novels and interviews with longlisted novelists. We continue with Ashraf al-Khamaisi’s God’s Land of Exile, a book reviewer Raphael Cormack says has “earned its place on the longlist”:

Photo credit: Raphael Cormack.
Photo credit: Raphael Cormack.

Ashraf al-Khamaisi was born in Luxor, Egypt, in 1967 and currently works as an editor for Al-Thaqafa Al-Jadida magazine. He is both an accomplished short-story writer and a novelist, and his story “The Four Wheels of the Hand-Pushed Cart” won first prize in a short story competition organised by Akhbar al-Adab. He has published three short story collections and two novels: The Idol (1999) and God’s Land of Exile (2013).

God’s Land of Exile is “set in ‘al-Wa’ara’, an imaginary oasis in the Egyptian desert of al-Wadi al-Jadid. The main character, Hajizi, is over 100 years old and has spent most of his life working with his father Shadid, embalming the corpses of animals. Disturbed by how the speed with which the living forget the dead, he longs for immortality and fears his own death and burial. … When two of his close friends have died, he has a vision of his own, imminent death and…contrives a plan to avoid burial. It is in his last moments that the Comforter arrives and shows him what he must do.”

A review from Raphael Cormack: ‘God’s Land of Exile’: Perspectives on Death

An interview with Cormack: Al-Khamaisi on Death, Writing, and Translation

The full audio of the interview on SoundCloud: Raphael Cormack interviews Ashraf al-Khamaisi, author of IPAF-longlisted God’s Land of Exile (Arabic)

The book on GoodReads: منافى الرب