Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi wins Lagardere Award
London - Iraqi writer Inaam Kachachi has won the Lagardere Award for Arab Novel for Tashari, which was originally published in Arabic in 2013 and translated into French in 2016.
Kachachi’s novel focuses on the displacement of Iraqis during the past few decades, telling the story of a female Iraqi doctor and her children, who live on three different continents.
The word “tashari” in the Iraqi Arabic dialect refers to the shot fired from hunting rifle, which scatters in several directions, symbolising displacement.
Kachachi spoke of the important role of the book’s translator, François Zabbal. She particularly lauded his ability to explain in French the complicated references in Iraqi society.
This can be further appreciated by considering that novels competing for the same prize were written in French by Lebanese and Moroccan authors.
Born in Baghdad in 1952, Kachachi studied journalism at Baghdad University and worked in the Iraqi media before moving to Paris to complete her doctorate at the Sorbonne. In addition to writing novels, she works as a Paris correspondent for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and Kol Al-Usra magazine.
Kachachi said her next book will also be about migration, telling a love story set in Iraq, Venezuela and France.
“Migration is the stability of the age. Migration is the daughter of war,” Kachachi said. “Mixing fiction with reality produces good work.”
Migration and exile are indeed a central part of Kachachi’s view of the world.
In a 2012 interview with the UAE-based newspaper the National, Kachachi said, although she left Iraq in 1979, she does not consider herself to be in exile as living in Paris is “a privilege”.
“I am still continuing to work as an Iraqi, my books are Iraqi books, not French books. That is the literature of real life. It is more interesting than imagination,” she said.
Fellow Iraqi writer Hadiya Hussein also took notice of Kachachi’s focus on their homeland.
“Inaam Kachachi is loyal to the characters who have spent the best part of their lives to help build this nation, which lives in our souls,” Hussein said. “Kachachi left Iraq, but Iraq had not left her.”
Whether as a novelist or as a journalist, Kachachi frequently addresses the plight of women, especially those from the Arab world.
“Most of her articles are about the struggle and suffering of women,” noted Amman-based Iraqi author Lutfiya al-Dulaimi.
Kachachi’s focus on women was also noted by Syrian writer Haitham Hussain, who cited the heroine in Tashari as “an example of the strong Iraqi woman whose character is strongly formed by knowledge and education”.
“She (the heroine) participated in the development and enlightenment of her society but the imposing circumstances and the wars led her to leave her country at the age of 80,” he added.
Although her writing is in Arabic and her plots often reflect a deep attachment as well as detailed knowledge of her homeland, Kachachi is familiar with the Western literary schools of thought, according to Syrian writer Abdullah Maksour.
Iraqi writer Basim Furat noted that Iraq is in dire need of more novelists like Kachachi as the country already boasts of renowned poets.
Branding her an “Iraqi icon”, Furat said Kachachi’s unsuccessful efforts in poetry helped her to succeed in writing three novels.
The Lagardere Award for Arab Novel includes a prize of $11,000. The award jury issued a $5,500 special mention to Best-seller by Reda Dalil. The awards are to be formally presented October 12th in Paris.
Since its launch in 2013, the Lagardere Award for Arab Novel was been won by Lebanese writer Jabbour Douaihy, Egyptian novelist Mohammad al-Fakharany and Saudi novelist Mohammed Hasan Alwan.