Novelist S. Khalifa awarded prestigious prize

The 35th session of Assilah Cultural Festival has granted the prize of Arabic novel for Palestinian writer Sahar Khalifa in a ceremony held in Al-Hassan II Centre in the presence of outstanding Arab writers and intellectuals.

Khalifa was deservedly awarded the prize because she is considered one of the pioneers of Arabic novel whose writings were translated into various languages including Russian, English, French and Hebrew.

In his speech, head of the arbitration committee, Algerian novelist Wasini al-A’raj said that Sahar’s creative writings justified granting her the prestigious award as she has been able to express the problems of Arab women and the tragedy of her people resulting from the racist practices of the Israeli forces of occupation. Throughout her novels, Sahar also advocates defending noble values in the Arab society.

Sahar Khalifa is considered one of the leading Palestinian novelists, much-admired for her writings that express the suffering of her people, and for her sensitive and eloquent style that is considered as one of the salient features of her writing.

Since the 1970s, she has published several novels including “We Are No More Your Slaves” in which she defends the rights of Arab women against the bad habits of the Arab society, especially depriving women of their basic rights to education and work. The autobiographical element was crystal clear in the novel through her talk about her failing marriage to which she put an end after thirteen years.

Khalifa’s Wild Thorns offers a vivid portrayal and an authentic documentation of Palestinians’ life in the Israeli occupied city of Nablus. The novel focuses on the story of Osama, the Palestinian expatriate who has returned from Kuwait charged with a resistance mission to blow up Israeli buses that carry Palestinian labourers who work in Israeli factories in Tel Aviv. Through Osama and other characters, Wild Thorns provides a realistic and rigid view of life under Israeli occupation and the issues facing both Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Other important novels by the novelist are: “Sunflower”, “Memoirs of an Unrealistic Woman” and “The Inheritance”.

Khalifa was born in 1942 in Nablus of the West Bank. She received a Fulbright scholarship and went to continue her studies in the US. She got a PhD in Women's Studies from the University of Iowa before returning to Palestine in 1988. She founded the Women's Affairs Center in Nablus, which now has branches in Gaza and Amman, Jordan. Earlier, she won Najib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel “The Image, the Icon, and the Covenant”.

With every new novel, S. Khalifa’s commitment to her people’s question increases proving that she is a writer with a difference.

K.Q.