Kuwaiti author Mai Al Nakib has won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s 2014 First Book Award.
Her book, The Hidden Light of Objects, is a collection of short stories that explore the private struggles of adolescence, marriage and middle age by taking a quiet look at the lives of ordinary people living in the Middle East, the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP), that published her debut work, said.
Mai’s debut literary work, written in English, features stories ranging from the invasion of Kuwait to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US occupation of Iraq.
This is the first time the award has been given to a collection of short stories and only the second time it has been granted to an international writer.
“I am incredibly grateful for this award,” she said. “It was a tremendous honour to be included among the stellar group of 46 writers nominated for the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award. This was my first time at the Book Festival, and I cannot thank the organisers enough for their support. To have my book selected by readers is especially encouraging. It means so much to know that readers from all over the world are connecting with ‘The Hidden Light of Objects.’ Perhaps this suggests that some are eager to discover other versions of the Middle East than those commonly depicted in the media.”
BQFP, a member of Qatar for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), said that by presenting the outside world with exceptional literary works of Gulf and Arab writers such as The Hidden Light of Objects, it is supporting QF in its mission of fostering a progressive, engaged society appreciative of its heritage.
“We are very proud that our author Mai Al Nakib has been honoured by this award,” Arend Küster, Acting Director of Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation said. “It speaks volumes for the book and for the general interest in new voices from the Gulf and the Arab peninsula. Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation will thrive by bringing more of these exciting voices to readers, locally and internationally.”
Now in its fifth year, the First Book Award encourages the Festival audience to discover the wealth of debut fiction featured in the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme.
A total of 46 novels and short story collections were eligible for the 2014 award, and readers were invited to vote for their favourite. Over 2,200 votes were received by the closing date.
BQFP has published several literary works such as ‘The Corsair’ by Qatari engineer and journalist Abdul Aziz Al Mahmoud.