Home Book Award Khaled Nasrallah’s novel in Ipaf selection is a cry against book censorship in Kuwait

Khaled Nasrallah’s novel in Ipaf selection is a cry against book censorship in Kuwait


In the novel by Khaled Nasrallah The white line of the night, a bibliophile working as an editor in the Published Works Department is forced to censor and ban the books he admires. The moral dilemma he faces thrusts him into the eye of a dystopian storm.

The white line of the night was among the six shortlisted works for the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. As the novel is set in an unidentified Gulf country, its premise is a scathing critique of the censorship faced by book publishers in Kuwait.

Nasrallah has a unique perspective on this issue. In 2016, dozens of books published by Nova Plus, a publishing house co-founded by the author in 2011, were banned with a nominal explanation. Nasrallah began to write The white line of the night two years later, and based its protagonist on a friend who worked in Kuwait’s book censorship department and had a penchant for creative writing.

“The structure of the novel is fictional, but some details relate to reality, general events and stories told to me personally,” Nasrallah said. The National. “My experience as an editor has certainly helped me too.

“The idea came to me, however, from a novelist friend who works in the service of censorship, and his paradox created the events of the novel which took me almost two years to write.”

Although The white line of the night does not explicitly refer to the country in which it is set, Nasrallah uses the novel as a platform to challenge the conflicting laws applied in his homeland.

“It describes some distinctive things about the strange laws of my country, which on the one hand give the right to speak freely, allowing criticism of the state and politics, [yet] authorities are monitoring books, Twitter and posts,” Nasrallah told Ipaf after the shortlist was revealed. “This situation was an additional inspiration and impetus for the novel.”

The white line of the night is propelled by contradictions, not just from a bibliophile working in a censorship service. The novel is a frontline between political polarities such as liberalism and conservatism, but it also explores the battleground between creativity and the forces that seek to stifle it.

“There is also another type of conflict [in the novel] — the internal conflict of the editor. In its reality and its imagination, accepting and rejecting its work, accepting or resisting state institutions,” says Nasrallah. “As such, the story is driven by these little big conflicts, which begin with gentle winds and end with a devastating hurricane.”

But Nasrallah is hopeful for Kuwait’s literary future. He says that despite censorship, the country’s publishing scene is in “its best days” and can still improve, if only “those concerned with cultural affairs in government join forces with writers, publishers and booksellers”.

He continues: “As for the difficulties, they are encountered by any Arab intellectual. The most important of which, in my opinion, is the devotion to creative practice.

Born in Kuwait in 1987, Nasrallah made a meteoric entry into the local literary scene. He was only 20 when he self-published his first book, a book of essays titled A Kuwaiti from another planet.

Since then, he has published five books including the novels Pigeon in 2013 and The greatest depthwho was shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Young Author category in 2017.

“I consider The white line of the night to be my fourth novel,” he says.

Nasrallah is currently working on a fictional biography of a literary figure whose life is intertwined with major political events in the region from the 1940s to the mid-2010s.

“I already have a few chapters,” he says. “I hope it will arouse the fascination and interest of Arab readers.”

Updated: May 28, 2022, 06:28

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