Entertainment & Arts

Tunisian author wins Arab fiction prize

Shukri Mabkhout Image copyright Kheridine Mabrouk
Image caption Mabkhout will have his novel translated in English as part of the prize

A Tunisian author who was inspired to write his first novel after the Arab Spring has won the Arab world's top prize for fiction.

Shukri Mabkhout's The Italian was the eighth winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

Judges said the novel was "astonishing", "a work of art" and "an important contribution to Tunisian, and Arab, literary fiction".

Mabkhout receives $50,000 (£32,000) and a guaranteed translation into English.

The Italian chronicles a seminal period in Tunisian political history while telling the story of Abdel Nasser, nicknamed 'The Italian' due to his good looks.

Yasir Suleiman, chairman of IPAF's board, called its author a "master of suspense".

Mabkhout's book, he said, "never lets go of the reader, who willingly follows its intriguing characters on their converging and diverging journeys".

He added that Mabkhout defies the "unfair criticism that the Arabic language is a bookish and fossilised mode of expression at odds with the modern world".

A total of 180 titles from 15 countries were in contention for the award, which is unofficially known as the Arabic Booker prize.

The five other shortlisted finalists will each receive $10,000 (£6,543).

Since 2008, the winning and shortlisted IPAF books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

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