Mohammed Hasan Alwan
Mohammed Hasan Alwan was born in 1979 in Riyadh. In 2002 he received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from King Saud University. In 2008 he earned an MBA at the University of Portland, in Oregon, in 2016 a PhD in international marketing at Carleton University in Ottawa. At age 14 he began writing poetry; he later worked as a columnist for the Saudi Arabian newspapers »Al Sharq« and »Alwatan«.
Alwan has since published five novels in Arabic. His debut »Saqf Elkefaya« (2002) created quite a stir in his native country and became a bestseller. It tells the tragic love story of a couple that must keep their relationship a secret, while pillorying the gender segregation that is still publicly sanctioned in Saudi society. His second novel
»Sofia« (2004), focuses on two lovers from disparate religious affiliations, while »Touq Altahara« (2007; tr. The collar of purity) describes the psychological trauma suffered by a sexually molested child. »Al-Qundus« (2013; tr. The beaver) was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction; two years later the French translation, »Le Castor«, won the Prix de la Littérature Arabe. The novel’s hero, Ghalib al-Wajzi, leaves Riyadh for Portland at the age of 40 and, from afar and with the help of a beaver accompanying him on his travels to Willamette River, tries to comprehend the history of his dysfunctional family. His parents separated; nothing ties the brothers to one another apart from their shared home. The beaver – rather egotistical in his social behavior and contentedly entrenched behind borders and walls in order to feel secure – exhibits certain commonalities with Ghalib’s family. His fifth novel »Mawt Saghir« (2016; tr. A little death) won Alwan the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The protagonist is Ibn Arabi, one of the most famous Sufi masters 800 years ago. Alwan had already addressed the theme of travel in his 2014 work of non-fiction »Al Raheel« (tr. Migration); Ibn Arabi’s ideas and philosophy interested him less than the fact that he was on the road for 50 years of his life. The novel follows the scholar from his birth in Andalusia in 1165 to his death in Damascus in 1240 and includes his deliberations on violence, which he witnessed in Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
Alwan published shorter works in English translation in »Banipal Magazine«, »The Guardian« and in »Words Without Borders«; in 2009–10 the Beirut39 project, in whose anthology his work also appeared, voted him one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40. Mohammed Hasan Alwan lives in Toronto.