Sudanese writer wins 2020 Institut du Monde Arabe’s prize

Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin’s novel was banned in Sudan during Omar al-Bashir’s rule and copies were even burned and destroyed by authorities.
Thursday 12/11/2020
Sudanese writer Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin. (facebook)
Sudanese writer Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin. (facebook)

PARIS - Sudanese writer Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin received the 2020 Arab Literature Prize,  awarded by the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris in cooperation with the Jean-Luc Lagardere Foundation.

Sakin took home the award, along with a 10,000 euro prize, for his novel “The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth,” which was published in Arabic and translated into French by Xavier Luffin.

“The novel was selected out of a shortlist of seven that included two translated and five works that were originally written in French,” said IMA in a press release on its official Twitter account.

The award’s jury also praised Lebanese author Dima Abdalla’s first novel “Mauvaises Herbes” (Bad Weeds), which won the prestigious French prize “Envoyé par La Poste” for 2020.

The IMA’s prize, which was created in 2013 to reward select literary works by Arab writers written or translated in French, focuses on themes related to Arab youth.

“The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth” was published in Arabic in Sudan in 2009. (facebook)
“The Jungo: Stakes of the Earth” was published in Arabic in Sudan in 2009. (facebook)

In 2009, Sakin’s novel received the prestigious Tayeb Salih Prize at the Khartoum International Book Fair. The work  explores themes of poverty, weakness, suffering and human wrongdoing by narrating the story of seasonal “jungo” workers who leave their poor villages in search of a better livelihood.

In hopes of building a small fortune, the workers endure hard labour in sugar farms, sesame fields and old factories. The novel’s protagonists find no escape but in the village of “Hilla,” where hopes and worries are drowned out with cheap glasses and fumes of bad hashish they share during long nights with miserable women.

The Institut du Monde Arabe’s website quoted Sakin as saying he was very happy to win the prestigious prize, which was previously awarded to Lebanon’s Jabbour Douaihy and Iraq’s Sinan Antoon.

“I think that this prize came at just the right time because my novel talks about religious tolerance, love and humanity, where we now live in a world torn apart by identity struggles, going through what looks like a clash of civilizations,” he said.

Sakin’s novel was banned in Sudan during Omar al-Bashir’s rule and copies were even burned and destroyed by authorities. “The authorities in Sudan dealt with the novel in terms of it touched the symbols of the regime” at that time (2009), said Sakin, who hopes to one day see his novels turned into films that express real life in Sudan.

Sakin was born in 1963 in Kassala, east Sudan. His family is originally from Darfur. He studied business administration in Asyut, Egypt. Upon returning to Sudan, he first worked as a secondary school teacher before joining the NGO Plan International Sudan.

Sakin has published many novels, including “The Messiah of Darfur,” “The Water Ashes” and “The Mills.” He was awarded the BBC prize for short stories in 1993 for his story “A Woman from Kampo Kadees” and the Stories on Air prize organised by the BBC in cooperation with Al Arabi Magazine for his stories “The Music of the Bones” and “Physics of Color” in 2013.

The Institut du Monde Arabe, which promotes Arab-French cultural relations, will host both Sakin and Abdalla on December 5, 2020 and February 27, 2021.