Lebanese author Hoda Barakat was awarded the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for her novel "Courier de la Nuit" (The Night Mail), which she worked on as Artist in Residence at CEU’s Institute for Advanced Study in 2017-2018. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction, run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation and funded by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, is the most prestigious literary prize in the Arab world. Barakat, who was born in Beirut and lives in France, received the program’s purse of USD 50,000 along with the prize on April 23.
The Night Mail is a story told in linked lost letters from immigrants and refugees. “Their exile begins with where they have come from, their countries, and does not end in the places they pass through, nor the ones where their journey stops, since their goal is not to stay there. There are no places nor journeys of exile. Their travelling resembles neither this nor that. They pass over the earth as no people have done before, at least in recent history,” said Barakat about her novel.
In talking about the decision of the jury to honor Barakat’s work, Charafdin Majdouline, chair of the judging panel said “the Night Mail is a highly accomplished novel that stands out for its condensed economy of language, narrative structure, and capacity to convey the inner workings of human beings. By choosing to use techniques well-known in novel writing, Barakat faced a challenge, but she succeeded in creatively innovating within the tradition to successfully convince the reader.”
In this video created during her residence at CEU’s IAS, Barakat talks about the concept and the writing process for her award-winning novel.