Kuwaiti author Mai Al-Nakib has won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s 2014 “First Book Award” for her debut short-story collection The Hidden Light of Objects:
The results of the festival’s First Book Award were announced yesterday.
Al-Nakib’s collection — the first collection of short stories to take the five-year-old prize — competed against forty-five other novels and collections. According to the book fest’s website, “Every debut novelist and every overseas writer whose words are published in English for the first time is included in the award, along with a selection of young adult fiction.” The authors also must have participated in that year’s Edinburgh book festival.
The prize is judged not by a panel, but by readers. More than 2,200 readers’ votes were received this year by the closing date.
In a prepared release, Book Festival Director Nick Barley said:
This is an extraordinarily moving and assured debut collection depicting the lives of ordinary people in a region of the world that is high on the news agenda. I am excited that our audience chose a collection of short stories for the first time in the history of our First Book Award. Al-Nakib’s strikingly assured stories range from the moving account of a Palestinian teenager who inadvertently becomes a suicide bomber, to a nostalgic depiction of 1960s Beirut before it was ravaged by conflict. Melancholy and yet full of hope, they add up to a delicately devastating portrait of the Middle East, the like of which has perhaps never before been rendered in the English language. This book, and its huge endorsement in this public vote, heralds the arrival of a rising literary star.
Al-Nakib’s book will also get a U.S. launch early next year.
Thanks to Italian journalist Vittoria Volgare for bringing this to my attention.