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Velvet: A Novel


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A rich, powerful story of hardship and hope for the women of a Palestinian refugee camp; winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.

About the Author

Huzama Habayeb is a Palestinian writer who was born and raised in Kuwait, where she started writing and publishing short stories, poetry, and journalistic pieces as a student. When the Gulf War erupted in 1990, she fled to Jordan and established her reputation as a short-story writer. Her first novel, Root of Passion, was published in 2007 to wide critical acclaim. Velvet is her third novel. Kay Heikkinen is a translator and academic who holds a PhD from Harvard University and is currently Ibn Rushd Lecturer of Arabic at the University of Chicago. Among other books, she has translated Naguib Mahfouz's In the Time of Love and Radwa Ashour's The Woman From Tantoura.


Winner of The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature
Winner of the 2020 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation "Huzama Habayeb's novel is an intense and vivid story of one woman's life in a Palestinian refugee camp, told with sensitivity to the sensuous but tragic world of its heroine but above all to her almost heroic defiance of reality. On one level, the novel is a study of the claustrophobia of poverty and oppression, of daily lives shorn of all tenderness, and of the stranglehold of family and patriarchy. Throughout it all, however, there remain dreams of individual fulfilment and the possibility of love and escape, turning the novel into a celebration of the triumph of the imagination over the mundane. The richness of the Arabic original is captured by Kay Heikkinen in a translation that faithfully adheres to its elegance without undue artifice and without losing the deeply tragic tenor of its events." --Judges' comments, Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize "As sensuous, smooth, and strong as the fabric that gives the novel its title." --Humphrey Davies, translator of The Yacoubian Building "Every moment in this book is so fully lived as to be magnetic...the novel should not be missed, in Arabic or in English, for its sentences crammed to the brim with life in a refugee camp, for its sophisticated picking apart of narrative tropes about motherhood and social mobility, and for the rollercoaster-like pleasure of Hawwa's ups and downs."--M. Lynx Qualey, Words Without Borders "An original voice who brings vividly to life Palestinian camps with extraordinary beauty and lyricism."--Tahia Abdel Nasser, The American University in Cairo "Passionate....bursting with sensory detail."--The National "Rich in language and metaphor"--The New Arab "Gives shape to a story of defiance and resilience"--Middle East Monitor

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