23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Saud Alsanousi
© Hartwig Klappert

Saud Alsanousi

The Kuwaiti novelist and journalist Saud Alsanousi was born in 1981. His motivation for writing is the chance this gives him to process and convey painful experiences in literary form: »I wanted to wound the reader; to replicate the same painful experience that I went through and to incite a certain empathetic ache, that he himself may then try to find a cure.« In literary terms, he does not feel that he belongs to a particular stream, but profits from reading Arab and international authors if different genres.

2010 saw the release of his debut novel »The Prisoner of the Mirrors«, which earned him the Leila Othman Prize. In 2011, his short story »The Bonsai and the Old Man« won the »Stories on the Air« competition that is organised by the newspaper »Al-Arabi« and BBC Arabic. His novel »The Bamboo Stalk« (2012) made him the winner of the State of Kuwait Award for literature 2012 and the youngest winner of the renowned International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2013. Against the background of the life of foreign workers in Arabic countries, the book looks at the question of identity. The young Josephine leaves her family behind in the Philippines and gives up her studies to look for a better future in Kuwait. She gets by as a housekeeper, falls in love with Rashid and becomes pregnant. When Rashid leaves her and their son José, she is forced to return to the Philippines. There José grows up in abject poverty until, aged 18, he goes on a search for his father and at the same time for his identity, religion and a sense of belonging to Kuwait. The reader sees life in the Gulf region through the eyes of a Philippine, a foreign worker who leads an existence on the edges of a society from which he is excluded. In terms of style, Alsanousi chose a simple, unpoetic and unpretentious language that suits the social background of his protagonist. His text can be understood as an appeal to our humanitarian sensibility »A human being is a human being no matter where he comes from or goes, and irrespective of everything; culture, religion, nature or behavior. Different people have different behaviors, habits, impressions, traditions, religions and ideals. The novel tries to draw together past all these differences.« Alsanousi travelled to the Philippines while preparing to write the novel so that he would be able to draw a realistic portrait of José. His novel is directed first and foremost at his fellow Kuwaitis and he uses the figure of José is an instrument to shed light on the immigrant problem and at the same time tell a universal story.

Saud Alsanousi writes for various Kuwaiti newspapers and magazines such as »Al-Watan«, »Al-Arabi« and »Al-Qabas« and he lives in Kuwait.


Prisoner of the Mirrors

Arab Scientific Publishers

Beirut, 2010

The Bamboo Stalk

Arab Scientific Publishers

Beirut, 2012