Novelist Shahad al-Rawi won the First Book Award at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Photo: Edinburgh Book Fest
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An Iraqi author has won a prestigious international prize for her debut novel.
Shahad al-Rawi won the First Book Award at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for her novel The Baghdad Clock
Set in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, The Baghdad Clock
tells the story of a young girl and her best friend growing up in a city at war.
Festival director Nick Barley said that Rawi’s novel exemplified the importance of telling stories.
“Even in extreme situations like the one portrayed in Shahad’s novel, it’s stories that keep people going. Maybe that’s why her novel is so affecting and so powerful,” he said, in comments published by the festival.
Rawi said she is “extremely happy” to have received the honour of the First Book Award.
“I’m very proud for two reasons; first because this prize came from the Edinburgh International Book Festival itself. Secondly, because the competition was extremely strong and the books drew on so many different subjects.”
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi congratulated Rawi on her win, saying “we will do our best in supporting our creative youth energies in various fields and creating an appropriate environment for them in order to build a bright future.”
"We will not lose when betting on the youth,” he added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi also gave Rawi congratulations.
"His Excellency expressed his pride for the achievements of Iraqi writers who promote the position of Iraqi culture and elevate the name of Iraq in international forums," read a statement from his office.
Rawi was born in Baghdad in 1986 and moved with her family to Syria after high school. She now lives in Dubai and is pursuing a PhD in anthropology.
The winner of the First Book Award is selected by readers “who champion new writing and who are responsible for making superstars out of debut novelists,” the festival stated.
This year, 49 titles were in the running for the prize.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival is billed as the largest such festival. It coincides with the city’s famous Festival Fringe.
The Baghdad Clock
was translated into English by Luke Leafgren.
Updated at 11:04 pm