Saudi novelist Dr Mohammed Hasan Alwan poses for a photograph in Sharjah.
Celebrated Saudi novelist Dr Mohammed Hasan Alwan was the latest guest of the #BookTalks initiative, during which he shared the inspiration behind his novel, A Small Death, which won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2017.
In conversation with media personality and session moderator Dr Berwin Habib at Al Rawi Café in Sharjah, Alwan recounted fond memories of the invitation he received from Sharjah back in 2003, saying it was the first time he was hosted as an author outside KSA, which was special to him given the emirate’s status as a regional cultural hub.
The Saudi author mentioned renowned Arab scholar Ibn Arabi as one of his strongest influences, saying that reading letters, books and studies on him were at the core of Alwan’s research for his award-winning novel. While going deep into studying the life and history of Ibn Arabi, Alwan noted that the scholar’s life was shrouded in mystery and a lot of works attributed to him, were in fact, not his works at all.
“In the history books I read, no more than 10 per cent of what is written about Arabi’s life is true or factual. My novel’s idea came to life when I decided to imagine the remaining 90 per cent, and write a fictional biography based on factual information about him,” Alwan shared with his audience, saying the daily activities of a well-celebrated Sufi scholar were not documented.
About winning the most prestigious prize in Arabic fiction and its role in general, he said: “There are studies that reveal the impact of the prize on the Arab world’s literary landscape and the encouragement it offers Arab novelists to continually work on improving their craft. The UAE’s efforts in hosting the prize and all other cultural initiatives the nation leads, both locally and internationally, are distinguished and highly commendable.”
Dr Berwin Habib, said: “I’m happy to be here at Al Rawi Café to moderate this wonderful book discussion, which is part of the year-long Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 celebrations.”
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