MAY 22, 2022 — Today, International Prize for Arabic Fiction chair of judges Shukri Mabkhout announced that Mohamed Alnaas was the prize’s 2022 winner for his debut novel, Bread for Uncle Milad’s Table. Here, five pieces — fiction, memoir, opinion, an interview, and a video — to celebrate Alnaas and his novel.
“The bakery is where I was raised to be patient, gentle, focused, observant, and respectful of time. I still remember the first loaf I ever baked. As usual, I had been watching my father, my chin balanced on the squeegee handle, observing him from a distance, swept up in his love affair with bread.”
What eventually helped me — saved me, really — was writing fiction. What keeps me connected to Libya are the stories, the tragedies and the happy endings. Writing fiction kept me alive in the midst of a civil war. I wrote under the sounds of shelling. I wrote when I was afraid of death and when I was bored. I wrote dark stories sometimes, but they were the products of a dark time.
Libyans were not fond of their own movie and drama culture. Yes, some characters and actors are still beloved and quoted, but they are mainly comedy characters. There are no iconic Libyan movie characters, remembered and revered like Adel Emam or Bruce Lee. First and foremost, Libyan cinema failed Libyan stories.
Interview: With IPAF Organizers
Milad had to be the only narrator in this novel for several reasons, most important of which is that Milad’s character is trapped behind the bars of notions of masculinity. We had to hear his voice because all the other voices were known and familiar. We had to give the microphone to Milad to break a long history of silence. He had to talk to us himself, and to be at ease while doing so. That is why the digression in the novel was intentional, to reflect Milad’s soul which longs to tell his story, to speak, to evade the main subject and return to it as he pleases.
Video: Shortlist Trailer by Khérédine Mabrouk