By Dennis Abrams
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction, sometimes referred to as the Arab Booker, has been announced, with 16 novels in contention for the 2016 prize. Those who made the list were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months.
The highest number of 2016 longlisted authors came from Egypt and Palestine.
The list includes a surprisingly large number of younger writers and debut novelists. Three longlisted writers are under the age of 40, and first novels by Tareq Bakari and Abdennour Mezzine have been included. In addition, two of the longlisted authors – Mohamed Rabie and Shahla Ujayli – have previously participated in IPAF’s annual nadwa, or writers’ workshop, for emerging writers with promise. Ujayli worked on a section of her longlisted book, A Sky Close to Our House, during the 2014 nadwa.
The full 2016 longlist, with author names in alphabetical order, is as follows:
Here by Taleb Alrefai, Platinum Books, Kuwait
Hymns of Temptation by Laila al-Atrash, Difaf Publications, Palestine/Jordan
Numedia by Tareq Bakari, Dar al-Adab, Morocco
The Temple of Silken Fingers by Ibrahim Farghali, Al-Ikhtilef, Egypt
People of the Palms, Janan Jasim Halawi, Saqi Books, Iraq
Mariam’s Journey by Mahmoud Hasan al-Jasim, Dar Tanweer Egypt, Syria
Desertified Waters by Hazim Kamaledin, Fadaat, Iraq
Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nabka by Rabai al-Madhoun, Maktabat Kul Shee, Palestine
Letters of the Storm by Abdennour Mezzine, Slaiki Akhawayn Publications, Morocco
Warsaw a Little While Ago by Ahmed Muhsin, Hachette Antoine, Lebanon
The Prophecy of Saqqa by Hamed al-Nazir, Dar Tanweer, Tunis, Sudan
The Black Brigade by Mohamed Mansi Qandil, Dar al-Shorouq, Egypt
Mercury by Mohamed Rabie, Dar Tanweer, Lebanon, Egypt
Praise for the Women of the Family by Mahmoud Shukair, Hachette Antoine, Palestine
A Sky Close to Our House by Shahla Ujayli, Difaf Publications, Syria
The Guard of the Dead by George Yaraq, Difaf Publications, Lebanon
The titles were selected by a five member panel of judges, whose names will be announced in Muscat, Oman on February 9, at the same time as the shortlist of six titles.
The 2016 Chair of Judges had this to say about the longlist:
“The task of choosing this year’s longlist was not easy given the high quality of overall submissions, which featured many young, unknown writers in addition to well-established names. However, a strong longlist has emerged, with many of the titles dealing with their subjects in fresh and unconventional ways and using experimental language. The books look at topical concerns from the Arab world – from daily life to larger political and social issues – and, between them, condemn violence, sectarianism (political, religious and tribal) and current dictatorships.”
Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, added:
“This is an impressive longlist of novels that hail from different parts of the Arab world. They address abiding issues that touch different aspects of our humanity in vivid and often disturbing ways that challenge preconceived ideas. Technically mature and sometimes demanding, the longlist lives up to the IPAF tradition of enticing the readers into new worlds of the creative imagination.”
This is the ninth year of the Prize, which is recognized as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. And, delivering on its goal to increase the international audience for Arabic fiction, the Prize has guaranteed English translations for all of its winners.
Taher’s Sunset Oasis was translated into English by Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) in 2009 and has gone on to be translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Ziedan’s Azazeel was published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012, while 2013 saw the publication of Spanish translations of Baha Taher’s Sunset Oasis (El Oasis) and Rabee Jaber’s The Druze of Belgrade (Los Drusos de Belgrado) by Madrid-based publisher Turner. English translations of Abdo Khal and Mohammed Achaari’s winning novels were published in 2014 by the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation.
Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing) was published in 2015 and Raja Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth), will be published in the March this year. 2014 IPAF winner Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi has also secured English publication with Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US.
The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.