Lebanese writer wins prestigious French prize for first novel

Dima Abdallah won French prize “Envoyé par La Poste” for the year 2020.
Friday 28/08/2020
Dima Abdallah (swediteur.com)
Dima Abdallah (swediteur.com)

PARIS- Lebanese novelist Dima Abdallah won the prestigious French prize “Envoyé par La Poste” for the year 2020 for her first novel “Mauvaises Herbes” (Bad Weeds), which narrates events of the Lebanese civil war through the eyes of a young girl and her father.

Abdallah, 43, an archaeologist who specialises in late antiquity, will receive the award and a 2,500 euro prize on September 8 at La Poste’s Museum.

Created by the French public postal service company La Poste, the “Envoyé par La Poste” prize rewards a manuscript (the first novel or story) sent by mail, without any specific recommendation, that is deemed by the publisher and their reading committee to have the most promise and merit publication.

Abdallah’s novel was published this week by the Sabine Wespieser publishing house and is now available in bookstores. The events of the book begin in 1983, when the Lebanese civil war was at its apex. While bombs fell relentlessly on Beirut, the young narrator is unafraid, sure that she will remain safe from the violence thanks to her “giant” with feet of clay– her father, who is described as an intellectual nature-lover who does not belong to any faction or party.

Abdallah’s novel “Mauvaises Herbes” (Bad Weeds) was published this week by the Sabine Wespieser publishing house. (swediteur.com)
Abdallah’s novel “Mauvaises Herbes” (Bad Weeds) was published this week by the Sabine Wespieser publishing house. (swediteur.com)

When the child turns 12, the family goes into exile in Paris, without the father. The brilliant schoolgirl heals her melancholy by taking refuge in the trees, the flowers and bad weeds, which she is always careful not to uproot.

Born in Lebanon in 1977, Abdallah, the daughter of poet Mohammed Abdallah and novelist Hoda Barakat, has lived in Paris since 1989. Her novel ends with a poem by Mohammed Abdallah: “To the furthest … To the deepest,” alternates the voices of the child and the father, bringing the reader to wonder who is protecting whom, or if they both need each other equally.