Iraqi author wins prestigious award

30th Nov 2018
Iraqi author wins prestigious award

Winner of the First Book Award, Shahad Al Rabi (Photo: Kareem El Deeb/Edinburgh International Book Festival)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Iraqi author Shahad al-Rawi has won Edinburgh International Book Festival’s prestigious First Book Award for her debut novel The Baghdad Clock.

Set in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, the novel tells the story of a girl growing up in a city at war.

Announcing Al-Rawi as the winner on November 2, the festival’s Director, Nick Barley, said the 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.

Al-Rawi said she was “extremely happy” to be honoured. “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.

“Edinburgh International Book Festival is one of the most important festivals in the world. It has the best reputation, and I’m very grateful that I was part of it this year,” she said.

Al-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 First Book Award celebrates the new fiction from the UK and around the world featured in the Book Festival public programme and is voted for by readers and visitors to the Festival. The winner was chosen from the 49 debut novels and short story collections for adults and young adults eligible for the Award this year.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is billed as the largest such festival. It coincides with the city’s famous Festival Fringe.

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