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  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

Review on “Ali Abdullah Al-Ajri’s Black Sack”


“Black Sack” is a thought-provoking short story written by Yemeni author Ali Abdullah Al-Ajri. The narrative explores themes of power, manipulation, and the consequences of blind obedience. Through its vivid imagery and symbolic elements, the story invites readers to reflect on the dangers of relinquishing personal agency and the potential dehumanization that can arise from such surrender. This critical analysis aims to delve deeper into the story’s themes, literary devices, and the social commentary it presents.

Power and Manipulation:
One of the central themes in “Black Sack” is power and manipulation. The general manager symbolizes a figure of authority who exploits the vulnerability and fear of the remaining employees. His physical description, with puffed cheeks and a broad neck, suggests a person who has abused their power for personal gain. The manager’s persuasive manipulation is evident when he presents the mysterious liquid as a miraculous concoction, promising health, strength, and protection. This manipulation establishes a power dynamic that shapes the subsequent events in the story.

Dehumanization and Loss of Agency:
As the story progresses, the employees willingly consume the magical liquid in exchange for their work. The liquid’s transformative effects on their bodies highlight the physical changes they undergo. However, these changes also symbolize a loss of individuality and agency. Their bodies become exaggerated and grotesque, with their muscles protruding and their buttocks tightening. This transformation reflects the dehumanizing consequences of blindly following authority without questioning the cost or implications.

Symbolism and Allegory:
“The Black Sack” incorporates rich symbolism and allegory to convey its message. The black sack itself represents a metaphorical container that holds the employees’ minds and hearts, symbolizing their surrender to authority. The removal and placement of brains and hearts into baskets signify the loss of critical thinking and emotional connections. This allegorical act emphasizes the dehumanization and reduction of the characters to mere vessels for obedience and control.

Social Commentary:
Al-Ajri’s short story can be seen as a social commentary on the dangers of authoritarianism and blind adherence to authority. The characters’ blind acceptance of the manager’s instructions echoes the historical and contemporary instances where individuals sacrifice their autonomy for the promise of security and prosperity. The story serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the risks of complacency and the erosion of personal freedoms in the face of manipulation and abuse of power.

“Black Sack” by Ali Abdullah Al-Ajri is a compelling short story that explores themes of power, manipulation, dehumanization, and loss of agency. Through vivid imagery and symbolic elements, the narrative offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of blind obedience and the potential consequences of surrendering personal autonomy. Al-Ajri’s use of allegory and social commentary invites readers to reflect on the implications of unchecked authority and the importance of critical thinking and individual agency in society. “The Black Sack” stands as a poignant reminder of the need to remain vigilant and question the motives of those in positions of power.

By Hatem Al-ShameaThe Black Sack – by Ali Abdullah Al-Ajri

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