Born in Lebanon, Iman Humaydan lives between Paris and Beirut. A novelist, journalist, and academic, she is the co-founder and current President of PEN Lebanon, and a board member of PEN International. She has published four novels.
LEILA jury member Iman Humaydan loves to follow, encourage, and read young authors. “I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the Arab Spring, I began to follow young writers in North Africa, Egypt, or Lebanon, and I let my creative, literary side guide me.”
Another important aspect to how she chooses her writers has to do with her academic background in sociology and anthropology. “I feel the young generation has a lot of things to say. When I read a novel, I like to see what the writer has to say in terms of social commitments to certain causes. Look at the state of every single country in our Arab world. It’s about values that stand with human causes at large.”
As a jury member of the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) she says she defended her choices for the long and shortlists “each time focusing on the alternative voice, the style and also the cause behind [the novel].”
Humaydan follows many of the writers she likes on social media to keep abreast of when their latest novels are being published.
She is less concerned with differences in what might appeal to Arab or European readers because she believes that “A good book should be a good book all over the world. We shouldn’t tailor topics for readers; human dimensions in a book are universal.”
That said, European publishers are often interested in books coming from war-torn countries, said Humaydan. “But my business is to promote a book that says something to me and my heart.”
She feels that “very good writing is coming out from Lebanon and Egypt and from the Arab Gulf, a place once neglected. Two women from the Emirates were on the IPAF shortlist. There are new voices coming out of Lebanon, for example, where they are inventing their own style and way of expressing the world, and this is why I follow them and love them and push them forward…”