From the press release:
The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and he Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem are today, Monday 14 March, announced as joint winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011. This is the first time the Prize has been split between two novelists.
The winners were announced by this year’s Chair of Judges, the celebrated Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil Al-Azzawi, at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
Fadhil Al-Azzawi comments: “The Judging Panel decided to give the Prize equally to two novels, which are The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem. They are two wonderful novels with great literary quality and they both deal with important and realistic problems in the Middle East, problems which have been reflected on banners during the recent protests that have shaken the Arab world, demanding change.
“The first novel, The Arch and the Butterfly, deals with Islamic extremism and terrorism and its destructive effect upon Arabic society itself, rather than on the West. The second, The Dove’s Necklace, reveals the true face of Mecca: behind the city’s holy veil there is another Mecca, where many crimes are committed and there is also corruption, prostitution and mafias of building contractors who are destroying the historic areas of the city, and therefore its soul, for commercial gain.”
This year’s winners were chosen from a shortlist of six titles, which was announced in Doha, Qatar, in December 2010 by Al-Azzawi and the four other Arabic literature specialists on the 2011 Judging Panel: Bahraini academic, researcher and critic Munira al-Fadhel; Italian academic, translator and critic Isabella Camera d’Afflitto; Jordanian writer and journalist Amjad Nasser, and Moroccan writer and critic Said Yaktine. The winner, shortlist and longlist of 16 titles were selected solely on the basis of literary quality and without regard to nationality, region, religion, gender or age.
Traditionally the winner is awarded a further 50,000 US Dollars but, as this year sees two winners, the prize money will be split between them. Both winners are guaranteed an English translation of their winning novels. Winners of the Prize can look forward to increased book sales and international recognition.
Jonathan Taylor, the Prize’s Chair of Trustees, commented: “These are interesting times for Arabic fiction, which are reflected in today’s exceptional announcement. For the first time the Judges decided that the Prize should be shared between two extraordinary books selected from an outstanding shortlist.”
The Prize was established in 2007 to address the limited international availability of high quality Arab fiction. Based on the successful model of the Man Booker Prize, it recognises the very best of contemporary Arabic writing over the past year and, by doing so, aims to encourage recognition of high quality Arabic fiction, reward Arab writers and lead to increased international readership through translation.
Now in its fourth year, the Prize has had a significant impact on the Arabic literary scene. It has become the preeminent international prize for Arabic literary fiction and is widely followed internationally. The first two winners of the Prize – Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (2008) and Azazel by Youssef Ziedan (2009) -– have not only secured English publications of their novels, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number of other international translations as a result of the Prize. News of an English translation of last year’s winner, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (2010), is imminent.