The International Prize for Arabic Fiction’s Shortlist: Strong on Issues

In News by Dennis Abrams

At a time when literary fiction may have an opportunity to illuminate the struggles and needs of many, the leading Arabic fiction prize’s shortlist makes the point.
International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 shortlisted authors (IPAF)

Shortlisted authors for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, clockwise from upper left are: Elias Khoury; Mohammed Hasan Alwan; Najwa Binshatwan; Saad Mohammed; Mohammed Abdel Nabi; and Ismail Fahd.

A quick focus today on the six authors and titles shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). At a time when freedom of expression has become a signal concern of many in world publishing, we’re interested in the serious social engagement of so many of these authors’ titles—and hopeful that we can have the chance sooner than later to read them all in English translation.—Porter Anderson

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

Slavery, Displacement, War, Discrimination
The shortlist for the tenth International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has been announced, and comprises these writers and titles:

Shortlisted novels are chosen as representative of the best in contemporary Arabic literature, and the winning combination can be an evocation of the Arab world’s heritage along with a sense of timely address in terms of current affairs.

Issues and Viewpoints
  • The Bookseller’s Murder shows the artistic, cultural, and human dimension of Iraqi civilization as seen in the aftermath of the US’ and allies’ military action.
  • The Slave’s Pens uncovers the history of slavery in Libyan communities in which “masters take female slaves as lovers as they please.”
  • Al-Sabiliat is the story of a woman in southern Iraq who defies the military forces in the war between Iraq and Iran.
  • The Spider’s Chamber is said to challenges taboos to give a voice to a long marginalized group, through a telling of the “Queen Boat” incident of 2001 in Cairo.
  • Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam is called a new approach to the 1948 Palestinian nakba, a displacement of more than 700,000 people, and the fate of the inhabitants of Lud.
  • A Small Death tells the story of the historical and spiritual adventures of Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi.

The novels selected were chosen from 186 entries from 19 countries, all published between July 2015 and June 2016.

Sahar Khalifeh, the 2017 Chair of Judges, is quoted in announcement materials, saying, “The six novels chosen from the huge number submitted to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction stand out for their brilliant artistic structure, development of characters and treatment of socially sensitive and daring subject matter.

“Some of them explore taboo areas, while others put their fingers on the pulse of critical situations in the complex Arab world of today and celebrate highlights of Arab heritage.”

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 is to be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on April 25, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (April 26-May 2). The six shortlisted finalists receive $10,000, with an additional $50,000 going to the winner, along with funding for an English translation.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It’s recognized as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world and is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.