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With his novelThe Mariner Taleb Alrefai turns a spotlight on Kuwait’s pearl-fishing history in an enthralling fictional re-telling of that fateful day, 19 February 1979, when the country’s famous dhow shipmaster Captain Al-Najdi is lost at sea in a treacherous storm. In between fishing for seabream with two friends, the retired mariner looks back on how the sea has been calling him since childhood, on the punishing work of pearl-divers, and how he became a captain at 14.
As he recalls his voyages around the Arabian Peninsula, some with renowned Australian sailor Alan Villiers, he meditates on how the sea was abandoned when pearl-fishing ended with the discovery of synthetic pearls and oil. Meanwhile, howling winds and enormous black waves suddenly erupt and threaten to engulf the small fishing boat.
Taleb Alrefai told us: "The Mariner is a novel very close to my heart as it immortalizes a national hero of my country, Kuwait. It portrays the strong relationship between Kuwaitis and the sea in the era before oil was discovered. It is an adventure between man and sea."
The original Arabic novel, Al-Najdi, published in 2016 by the Kuwaiti publisher That Al-Salasil, was longlisted for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Banipal Books published the English edition, translated by Russell Harris from the Arabic, in April 2020, just as the Covid pandemic was getting well underway. It also has French, Turkish, Spanish, Italian and Chinese editions.
This English audio is a terrific and welcome addition to Spiracle's collections. As they say –Spiracle is the sound of great writing.
Spiracle is the home of exceptional fiction and non-fiction audiobooks which are selected by book lovers for book lovers. As well as a selection of audiobooks from major publishers Spiracle collaborates with smaller, independent presses such as Banipal Books to co-publish the best titles as exclusive Spiracle Editions.
Spiracle has stories you’ve never heard before. They might be fiction, they might not be. But they won’t be dull. They read many and whittle down to a few. They co-publish as many audiobooks as they can in addition to a further selection of ready-made, literary gems from the world's audiobook publishers.
Spiracle aims to represent the best writing across a long period and from a diverse range of places – classics, hidden or ignored gems, the best of contemporary small and independent presses.
They look for brilliant stories which stretch, remake and open up the idea of ‘story’, stories that speak to each other across time and space in a way that enriches the experience of listening to them.
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