Leila Aboulela grew up in Sudan and graduated from the University of Khartoum, after which she studied statistics at L.S.E. In 1990 she moved to Aberdeen with her husband and children and started writing while teaching Statistics at Aberdeen University. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and her stories have been broadcast on B.B.C. Radio 3 and 4. Her first novel, The Translator, featured as The Guardian Pick of The Week Fiction Choice (October 9, 1999). It was also long-listed for the 2000 Orange Prize and nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Leila’s short story, The Museum, (published in Opening Spaces, ed. Yvonne Vera, Heinemann) is included in a collection of this author’s short stories, ‘Coloured Lights’ and won the first Caine Prize for African Writing, worth $15,000.
Her second novel, Minaret, was chosen for the BBC’s ‘Book at Bedtime’ in 2005 and was one of the longlisted novels for the 2006 Orange Prize. Lyrics Alley was also longlisted for the same prize this year, 2011.
In 2012 Lyrics Alley was the Fiction Winner of the Scottish Mortgage Investment Book Awards.
And here is the lovely quote from the judges:
Fiction: Leila Aboulela, Lyrics Alley (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Beautifully written, epic and lyrical at the same time, Lyrics Alley softly and delicately weaves a fabric of voices, emotions, daily heroic deeds, small acts of faith, hopes and dreams which tells more of Aboulela’s native Egypt than a history book or a documentary. Aboulela’s great gift, in fact, is not only that of being a mesmerising story-teller, she has the rare ability to speak across borders and cultures… to bridge the gaps and heal the fractures that divide the world today and that all too often the media contribute to create and perpetuate. Aboulela speaks indeed what can be described as a universal language — not the language of empires and post-empires, whose normative universality is the outcome of coercion and exclusion — but the language of a deeply empathetic observer, who is able to capture, beneath the multifarious diversity of cultural expressions, the desires and ideals that human beings have in common — love, forgiveness, freedom, fraternity. As Tariq Ramadan has recently put it “there is an infinite number of windows through which we all observe the same world”. Aboulela goes indeed a long way to depict lovingly both the specificity of her native country — its difference — as well as making us glimpse its intrinsic ‘wordly’ sameness….
Titles: The Translator, Coloured Lights (short stories), Minaret (Bloomsbury), TV/film rights to The Translator optioned by BBC, BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour has serialised a drama adaptation ofThe Translator; Lyrics Alley (Weidenfeld & Nicholson), The Kindness of Enemies (Orion)
The Kindness of Enemies
Moving from present-day Scotland to the court of the Tsar, The Kindness of Enemies is an epic of love and betrayal, reconciliation and war.
Natasha is researching the life of Imam Shamil, a nineteenth-century warrior who battled to defend the Caucasus against Russian invasion. She uncovers a story of bravery and loss, and of captives traded between wild mountain hideouts and the refined court of the Tsar.
The tale of Shamil and his lost son comes shockingly to life when Natasha realises that her star student, Oz, is descended from the warrior. Quickly, she becomes drawn to him, and to the alluring world of his family. But Natasha soon discovers she is not the only one with an interest in Oz, and in what he might be hiding. As suspicion around him intensifies, Natasha realises everything she values stands in jeopardy.