The Writing Sabbaticals 2021 recipients are:

Fatin Abbas (Sudan, b. 1981) for The Intruders, a text that reexamines identity and nationalism in Sudan. The story is set ten years before the secession of South Sudan, and begins with the appearance of an unidentified body in a border town between the North and the South. The novel offers us a rare glimpse into a complex stage of the political and social history of Sudan from the point of view of women.

Fekryaa Shahra (Yemen, b. 1975) for Girls of Migration, a realistic story told in a clear and plain-spoken style. It deals with a pressing contemporary issue concerning migration: how its entanglement with economic realities often conditions people’s lives and decisions.

Hala Salah (Egypt, b. 1984) for What Darkness Withholds, a realistic narrative interested in tracing origins and family stories. This documentary novel unearths the stories and attributes of an entire society at a moment in time by exploring the history of a family.

Hassan Akram Raouf (Iraq, b. 1993) for A Strange Tattoo on the Shoulder of the Robot. A compelling narrative treatment of fear, this story deals with the wounds that war inflicts on the self: the all-encompassing despair that it creates and the constant fear of both past and future.

Huda Emran (Egypt, b. 1988) for A Gamer’s Life. This exploration of teenage years and virtual worlds moves freely between places and subjects, much like a camera would, and incorporates contemporary writing strategies in order to create a deeply human narrative.

Marwa Helal (Egypt, b. 1981) for Ante Body, a long poem that engages with colonialism and racism as two sides of the same coin. Proposing that English texts be read from right to left — not merely as a visual game, but rather as an adventure — and written in a strong voice that rushes forth like a cry, this is a poetic reflection on identities and history.

Raphael Amahl Khouri (Jordan, b. 1976) for Behold the Enduring Psychosexual Power of Jeff Goldblum. This monodrama explores gender and queerness in Western theater from ancient Greece to the present time, and weaves the author’s biography with the history of theater. The text tackles the transgender experience and its relationship to family and art, moving between what we have been told and what has been erased, the self and the other, performance of the feminine and masculine, experimenting with flow, narration, and interpretation.

This program was partially supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Flemish Government, and is part of the Distinct Voices project supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.