Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace — in English translation by Katharine Halls and Adam Talib — celebrated its publication day yesterday:
In 2011, The Dove’s Necklace was co-winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), taking the prize along with Mohammed Achaari’s mediocre The Arch and the Butterfly, becoming the first, and thus far the only, woman’s book to have taken (at least half of) the prize.
Other women’s books that should’ve been strong contenders for the IPAF, such as Hoda Barakat’s The Kingdom of This Earth and Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, have either been stranded on the longlist (The Kingdom) or haven’t made the longlist at all (The Queue).
Although Alem has said she doesn’t identify as a woman writer — “When you say ‘a woman, a Saudi writer,’ I am shocked. Because I don’t belong to anybody. I belong to the books I write. To this free flow of thinking, of energy.”
You can read an excerpt on LitHub which begins:
The Lane of Many Heads
The only thing you can know for certain in this entire book is where the body was found: the Lane of Many Heads, a narrow alley with many heads.
The first thing you should know, though, is that it’s not me who’s foolish enough to try to write about a place like the Lane of Many Heads; this is the Lane itself speaking, me and my many heads. I am that narrow alley in Mecca, off the highway where pilgrims make their ablutions and don their white robes to begin the Umrah rituals: the cleansing of the soul, washing away the past year’s sins in preparation for another year of debauchery. Keep reading.
You can also watch the interview: