Basim Khandaqji wins prestigious literary prize

Basim Khandaqji, a writer who has been imprisoned in Israel since he was 21, has been awarded the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), per Khandaqji won the US$50,000 prize for his novel A Mask, the Color of the Sky.

The announcement was made during the 2024 IPAF ceremony held on April 28, coinciding with the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The award, supported by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, is a highly anticipated event in the literary world.

Khandaqji, now 41, is the third Palestinian writer to win this esteemed award. His novel, A Mask, the Color of the Sky, published by Dar al-Adab, is a profound exploration of identity and history. Despite being incarcerated, Khandaqji pursued education, earning a degree in political science from Al-Quds University and continuing to write prolifically.

Khandaqji /

The novel, set in a Palestinian refugee camp, follows the protagonist Nur, an archaeologist who discovers an Israeli identity card, setting off a series of encounters that delve into themes of identity, displacement and resistance.

The chair of the IPAF jury, Nabil Suleiman, praised the novel for its innovative narrative forms and its exploration of complex realities. He described it as a narrative that “pulses with compassion in the face of dehumanisation” and “declares love and friendship as central to human identity above all other affiliations.”

Khandaqji’s win is a testament to the power of literature to transcend borders and amplify marginalised voices. His work stands as a beacon of hope, offering a poignant reflection on the Palestinian experience.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction, often referred to as the “Arabic Booker,” is based in England and operates independently of the Booker Prize Foundation. This year’s jury comprised renowned writers, academics and critics, reflecting the award’s commitment to celebrating excellence in Arabic literature.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date