Abdel Aziz Baraka Sakin is one of Sudan’s most prominent and celebrated writers, as well as one of the country’s most-banned. As recently as this February, his The Messiah of Darfur was seized from a Khartoum book fair. This was not the first time the novel was removed from a fair — Sakin told the AFP in 2012 the novel had been seized from that year’sKhartoum International Book Fair.
Sakin, who now lives in exile, said in an interview with Sudan’s Radio Dabanga that “the announcement [of the book prize] is a declaration of victory not only for me but for all Sudanese.”
The annual La Cène Littéraire is for works of African literature that have been translated into French.
In the words of the prize judges, The Messiah of Darfur is a “dense, epic, and edifying novel about the Darfur War which, since 2003, has been a terror responsible for around 300,000 dead and several million displaced.”
According to Warscapes, Sakin’s works remain popular despite the difficulty of obtaining them: “Sakin’s books are secretly traded and circulated online as PDF files among readers of all generations.” And Max Shmookler writes, on ArabLit, that the “novels of Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, for instance, are ironically much easier – even for Sudanese themselves – to obtain in Cairo than in Khartoum.”
Shmookler futher writes that Sakin was “the darling of the [Sudanese] Writer’s Union” but “had left to seek asylum in Austria after publishing…al-Jango, which depicted the grotesque conditions in a women’s prison in the city of Qadaraf in Eastern Sudan.”
The Messiah was Sakin’s first novel in French translation. He has a story, “Butcher’s Daughter,” in the collection Book of Khartoum, edited by Shmookler and Raph Cormack, and his al-Jango, which won the Al-Tayeb Saleh Award in 2011, was published in translation by Adil Babakir as The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth (2015).
Sakin made ArabLit’s “20 Books You Might See on the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist” with his Manifesto of a Nubian Rooster, although the prediction was incorrect.
The La Cène Littéraire awards ceremony is set to take place on this April 29 as part of the Geneva Book Fair.
The other shortlisted books were:
– Confessions d’une sardine sans tête, de Guy Alexandre Sounda, (Editions Sur le fil).
– Le livre de Memory, de Petina Gappah (traduction française parue aux éditions JC Lattès).
– Racines d’amertumes, de Landry Sossoumihen (Mon petit éditeur).
– Une colère noire: Lettre à mon fils, de Ta-Nehisi Coates, (traduction française parue aux éditions Autrement).