Against the Loveless World

2020 winner
Against the Loveless World
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
Published Date: July 2020
ISBN-13: 9781526618795

Nahr has been confined to the Cube: nine square metres of glossy grey cinderblock, devoid of time, its patterns of light and dark nothing to do with day and night. Journalists visit her, but get nowhere; because Nahr is not going to share her story with them.

The world outside calls Nahr a terrorist, and a whore; some might call her a revolutionary, or a hero. But the truth is, Nahr has always been many things, and had many names.

She was a girl who learned, early and painfully, that when you are a second class citizen love is a kind of desperation; she learned, above all else, to survive.

She was a girl who went to Palestine in the wrong shoes, and without looking for it found what she had always lacked in the basement of a battered beauty parlour: purpose, politics, friends. She found a dark-eyed man called Bilal, who taught her to resist; who tried to save her when it was already too late.

Nahr sits in the Cube, and tells her story to Bilal. Bilal, who isn’t there; Bilal, who may not even be alive, but who is her only reason to get out.


Judges' Notes on why this book was shortlisted:

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa is a major literary contribution to Palestinian and international fiction by a prominent Palestinian writer. The humanising images painted in this novel are powerful, complex and beautiful. This deeply researched work of imagination sheds new light on dark corners and dark regimes. It gives an insight into the life of the marginalised and victims of persecution and those who navigate with dignity through oppression, from Kuwait during the Gulf War to Palestine under ongoing Israel occupation. It is also a story of love, defiance and rebellion against subordination and misogyny and the self-emancipation of Palestinian women and women elsewhere.

Notes by Professor Nur Masalha, Judge, Palestine Book Awards 2020
Read the Judges' Notes for all the shortlisted books here.


Reviewed by: Amelia Smith

The Nahr we meet some way into Susan Abdulhawa’s “Against the Loveless World” is a different one we imagine to the figure who sits in an Israeli jail cuffing her own hands to the wall and staring up at the black camera built into the roof of her cell. The Nahr who grew up in Kuwait dances at parties and has sex for money so she...