By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
The Arab Novel as ‘The Voice of Our Time’
Sixteen novels have been placed into competition this week for the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), a collection chosen by the jury from 124 entries published between July 2016 and June 2017.
A shortlist of six titles is to be announced in February, with the winner to be announced on April 24, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist
- Ahmed Abdel Latif, Egypt: The Earthen Fortress (Dar al-Ain)
- Atef Abu Saif, Palestine: Christina (Al Ahlia)
- Rasha Adly, Egypt: Passion (Arab Scientific Publishers)
- Fadi Azzam, Syria: Huddud’s House (Dar al-Adab)
- Antoine Douaihy, Lebanon: The Last Country (Arab Scientific Publishers)
- Amir Tag Elsir, Sudan: Flowers Consumed by Fire (Dar Al Saqi)
- Aziz Mohammed, Saudi Arabia: The Critical Case of “K” (Dar Tanweer, Lebanon)
- Ibrahim Nasrallah, Palestine: The Second War of the Dog (Arab Scientific Publishers)
- Amjad Nasser, Jordan: Here Is the Rose (Dar al-Adab)
- Hamed al-Nazir, Sudan: The Black Peacock (Medad)
- Shahad Al Rawi, Iraq: Baghdad Clock (Dar al-Hikma, London)
- Taleb al-Refai, Kuwait: Al-Najdi (That al-Salasil)
- Walid Shurafa, Palestine: Heir of the Tombstones (Al Ahlia)
- Dima Wannous, Syria: The Frightened Ones (Dar al-Adab)
- Hussein Yassin, Palestine: Ali, The Story of an Honorable Man (Dar al-Ru’aat)
- Amin Zaoui, Algeria: Leg Over Leg: In the Sighting of the Lovers’ Crescent (Al-Ikhtilef)
The winner of the prize is honored with $50,000, and each of the six shortlisted authors is given $10,000. The program named the author Mohammed Hasan Alwan its 2017 winner last year for his novel A Small Death. You can read our interview with him here.
As reported by Publishing Perspectives, the prize program also supports a workshop program for emerging writers in the Arab world—a nadwa, as it’s called—sponsored in part in 2017 by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.
One of the reasons for this prize’s high regard in the global industry is that funding is provided to have each winning novel translated into English. Organizers report, for example, that this year will see the publication in English of Ahmed Saadawi’s 2014 winner, Frankenstein in Baghdad, translated by Jonathan Wright, from Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the USA—set for a release on Tuesday (January 23).
Another is Rabai al-Madhoun’s 2016-winning Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba from Hoopoe Fiction. Publishing Perspectives has requested the name of the translator for the al-Madhoun book and will add the information when it’s provided.
The Jordanian novelist and playwright Ibrahim Al Saafin is chair of this year’s jury, which also includes Algerian translator and novelist Inam Bioud; Sudanese writer and novelist Jamal Mahjoub; Palestinian short story writer and novelist Mahmoud Shukair; and the Slovenian translator and writer Barbara Skubic.
In a prepared statement, Al Saffin speaks for the jury about the quality of the longlisted selections this year, and is quoted, saying, “The novels on the longlist are thematically and stylistically varied: realistic, fantastical, historical and social, but all in their different ways tackle Arab reality and the challenges faced by Arab societies on political, cultural and human levels, as well as grappling with questions of identity.
“They bring to life the tragic distortions and dreams of these societies, delving deep into the past to throw light on current issues.”
‘Whispering in Our Ears”
This year’s trustee board chairman is Prof. Yasir Suleiman CBE, and in the program’s media materials, Suleiman is quoted, saying, “The longlist for this year sees the return of writers who appeared on IPAF lists in previous years as well as authors who make their debut for the first time.
“This combination of talent is a testimony to the enduring value of the prize as a platform for Arabic literary creativity in its continued effort to grapple with some of the most pressing issues in Arab life.
“It is this commonality of interest that marks the Arab novel as the voice of our time, whispering in our ears, subtly but boldly, that creativity knows no bounds in its rendition of the human condition in troubled times.”
Suleiman’s reference is to the fact that three of this year’s longlisted authors have been shortlisted in the past:
- Atef Abu Saif (2015, A Suspended Life)
- Amir Tag Elsir (2011, The Grub Hunter)
- Ibrahim Nasrallah (2009, Time of White Horses)
Nasrallah and Elsir also have served as mentors in the nadwa/workshop program. They also have been longlisted in the past, as have Fadi Azzam, Antoine Douaihy, Hamed al-Nazir, Taleb al-Refai and Amin Zaoui–which does underline Suleiman’s sense of the prize now gathering a kind of gravity of its own, becoming a reliable quality over time.
One of the books longlisted, Shahad Al Rawi’s Baghdad Clock, has been translated into English by Luke Leafgren and is expected from Oneworld in a UK release set for June 26, with Amazon.com listing a May 8 release in the United States.
More of our coverage of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is here.