Abdo Khal

Abdo Khal was born in the village of Al-Majanah in southern Saudi Arabia in 1962. While Khal was still a young boy his family moved to the harbour city of Jeddah, where he still lives and where he has drawn inspiration for many of his works. He studied political science at the King Abdul Al Aziz University in Jeddah and, for a short time in his youth, worked as a preacher.

Khal has been interested in literature from a very young age, writing his first novel when he was seventeen. He has written more than a dozen novels and short story collections – some of which have been translated into European languages – as well as a play. His works include »A Dialogue at the Gates of the Earth«, »There’s Nothing to be Happy About« and »Cities that Eat Grass«. Khal’s books, sometimes highly critical of Saudi society, have often been banned in his country and Arab critics have accused him of undermining moral values. Khal says his texts are controversial because they allude to the »sacrosanct taboo triangle of the Arab world: sex, politics and religion«.

In 2010, Khal received the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel »Tarmi bi Sharar« (2007; Eng: »Throwing Sparks«, 2012), which deals with the corrupting impact of limitless wealth on Saudi society. The novel takes place in Jeddah, where a luxurious Palace is built along the shorefront next to a poverty-stricken neighbourhood. Residents of the neighbourhood dream of finding jobs and riches at the Palace, but when some of the young men do, they find the reality of the Palace is much more cruel and dark than they could have imagined. Khal says that, with »Throwing Sparks«, he sees himself as the voice of those who are deprived of their rights: »As I see it, the disenfranchised are those people in a society who are not able to make themselves heard. My novel ›Throwing Sparks‹ is an altercation between two worlds: that of decadent wealth and that of bitter poverty – and describes these worlds in great detail. What you take from this novel is up to you – the literary beauty or the scandalous partial aspects.«

He is managing editor of the Jeddah-based newspaper »Okaz«, for which he writes a regular column, and is one of the leaders of the Literary Club of Jeddah, a group that holds talks related to books and sponsors other literary activities in the city.