The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which is partially funded by the Booker foundation, has been announced. The majority of titles on the shortlist “ Hunger, The Unfaithful Translator, The American Granddaughter, Time of White Horses, The Scents of Marie-Claire “ read like standard lit-prize material.
Then there’s the winner, Egyptian author Youssef Ziedan’s Beelzebub, a work of historical fiction that “features a 5th century Egyptian monk in Alexandria and delves into the history of divisions among fathers of the church over the nature of Christ,” according to The L.A. Times. The title refers to the Devil, who “unlike in classical religious thought . . . is not cursed as the voice of evil but implicitly hailed as the voice of human reason, which pushes the protagonist throughout the novel to question the universe around him.” As The L.A. Times puts it:
[Ziedan’s] critique goes beyond the role of religious institutions to the essence of monotheistic religions: The substance is the same; it is based on the superiority of oneself over others under the pretext of possessing a god who owns the truth. This element of superiority is the same in all three religions, which gives rise to violence. As long as religions last, violence will persist.
[…] The work sympathizes with sects that challenged the divine nature of Christ, and it quickly ignited fury within the Coptic Church, which has about 10 million followers in Egypt.
In the manner of all good journalism, this Quillblogger will refrain from commentary; however, he looks forward to the inevitable English translation and Da Vinci Code-like storm of protest.