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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Victory for the Devil: Azazel takes Arabic Booker
Described by the Coptic Church as "the Arabic version of The Da Vinci Code" and by its author, Youssef Ziedan, as "a philosophical novel written with blood, sweat and tears," Azazel (Beelzebub) carried off the $50, 000 top award in the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The National has a full report on the prize-giving. Trailing clouds of controversy -- as well as the promise of Dan Brown-style mystery (although the author hotly denies the comparison) -- Beelzebub sounds like it could be a huge hit once the English translation is released. According to Gulf News, Ziedan is now "hopeful that the book will earn him a Nobel prize for literature next year," which sounds less astonishing when you realise that Azazel is Ziedan's fifty-fourth book, a crowning achievement bringing together his academic work on Islamic philosophy and history of medicine, as well as his work as the Director of the Manuscript Centre at the Library of Alexandria. He has certainly galvanised attention to Arabic literature, with the prize even rating a mention in the New Yorker books blog.