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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.

Black Sack – by Ali Abdullah Al-Ajri

Black Sack

Our department was one of the most important in the country. It used to be bustling with a large number of employees until it was hit by a mysterious epidemic, which caused most of the staff to flee and abandon their work completely. Only ten people remained in the department, including myself and the general manager with his puffed cheeks, shiny red-tinted skin, broad neck, and large skull (as if he cleverly used it for what we locally call “manipulation” of rights and deceiving minds). However, this time he started to appear pleasant, friendly, and persuasive. He bitterly complained about our colleagues who left their jobs in fear of the plague. He assured us, “…You won’t suffer any harm as long as you use the miraculous concoction that I use every day. It has given me health, strength, and protection. Until now, it has been one of the secrets I kept to myself. And as a token of appreciation for your loyalty and perseverance, I have decided that we should share together this effective savior.”

He pulled out a short cylindrical bottle from his pocket, resembling a large cup – it reminded me of my grandmother’s antique lantern bottle in our village. Inside the bottle was a golden liquid similar to honey, with small black, white, and yellowish particles floating in it.

Our ten mouths were left in astonishment and anticipation to taste this liquid.
The general manager put his hand back into his pocket and pulled out a small spoon. He dipped it into the liquid and inserted it into the mouth of the first person to lick it. Then he repeated this action with all of us.

When it was my turn, I found the liquid to be sweet-tasting like honey, but at the end, it had a bitter and sharp aftertaste like vinegar. Afterwards, we felt euphoric and powerful. It was as if our bodies had grown taller and wider, and our muscles protruded and swelled. We even felt our buttocks tighten and harden like a leather ball.

The manager continued to supply us with this magical liquid for several days – I don’t know how many – and then he informed us that the “lick” he provided us was in exchange for our work in the department, and we had no other reward but that.

We accepted this exchange with open hearts and extra enthusiasm in our work, until the day came when he told us, “The quantity of the liquid is running out, and we all need to go to the owner of the divine lights, generous gift, pure character, and profound wisdom, so he can provide us with the necessary amount.”

Of course, we all hurriedly agreed without hesitation. We were eagerly awaiting the long-awaited day when our manager would inform us at the right moment.
The meeting was delayed, and the daily magical lick diminished until it stopped altogether. Distress intensified within us, and agitation and confusion filled our souls, trapping our memories in a labyrinth.

Our manager didn’t leave us for long before he delivered the long-awaited news. We hastily prepared to meet the “owner of the divine lights, who graciously deducted some of his precious time for us.”

The ten of us were packed into a dilapidated van, blindfolded and gagged. We had no idea how many streets we passed through in the city until we found ourselves descending into a basement, discernible only by the sensation of going downwards through its staircase. Each of us held onto the shoulder of the other, all led by the general manager.

At the bottom of the last step, the masked individuals uncovered our eyes and gave each of us a number that was wrapped around our arms. As soon as our eyes were freed, we saw a vast, bare hall with a low-height door at the end. On either side of the door were ten small baskets, inside of which were black plastic bags tied up in a circular manner on the rim of the basket. Each of those baskets had a corresponding number to the ones we were given.

Our manager was no longer present. Instead, another person wearing a black mask approached us and began opening our minds, one by one, and placing them in the numbered baskets. After the brains were removed, our hearts were extracted and placed in the baskets. As for those whose hearts and brains were taken, they were thrown beyond the door, their hunched figures almost touching their knees.

As soon as I was thrown inside, I caught a glimpse of a strange and hideous creature for a few seconds. It had horns like a goat and ears like a donkey. But it was just a flash before that creature transformed into a dazzling halo of light. It had multiple arms like an octopus.

Then those octopus-like arms began to extend towards our mouths, feeding us with that magical liquid.

Translated by Hatem Al-ShameaThe Appointment – by Saeed Mohammed Al-Hammadi

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