By Hammour Ziada
At the close of the nineteenth century, freed slave Bakhit is let out of prison with the overthrow o…Read more
“It is a great honor for me to win the Mahfouz Medal because I am the first Sudanese to get it,” said Hammour Ziada when he received the 2014 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature award in the Egyptian capital, for his novel The Longing of the Dervish (Shawq al-darwish).
In their citation, the judges of the Award Committee described The Longing of the Dervish as “an intricate love story of a Sudanese slave in the world of the Mahdist movement in nineteenth-century Sudan.”
They praised not only the author’s “wide-ranging palette of characters and events” but also the range and dexterity of Ziada’s writing: “Shawq al-darwish is characterized by an epic richness that courses through the narrative, not only on the level of the complexity of the character of the tragic hero, but also on the level of the multiplicity of the modes of discourse: marvelously and richly alternating between narrative, poetry, songs, folklore, historical documents, Sufi and church hymns, Quranic and Biblical verses, and even writing about writing. . . .”
Ziada’s novel tells the tale of a Sudanese slave, Bekhit Mandil, and his beloved, Theodora, a Greek Alexandrian, set against the background of brutal power struggles from the time of the Mahdi revolution to the fall of Khartoum. The love story is the driving force of Ziada’s historical narrative in which he explores sobering themes such as revenge, slavery, and imprisonment, but also betrayal, religious hypocrisy, and racism. “In its illustration of the devastation caused by the Mahdi uprising, a fanatical, extremist, and violent religious movement, Shawq al-darwish is a powerful statement on the current scene in the region where religious extremism is causing havoc,” added the committee in their citation.