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Everything you need to know about the world's great writers and emerging voices is being collected and shared on the English PEN Online World Atlas. Head over to the Atlas to create (or edit) a profile for your favourite author or book, leave a comment or contact another user, and discover your next great read. We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.

The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

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.

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