International Prize for Arabic Fiction Names 2019 Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

The 12th International Prize for Arabic Fiction longlist–promoting literary excellence and translation–features seven women authors.


By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Longlisted Authors Aged 43 to 79
In its announcement today (January 7), the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has named 16 titles to its longlist of novels for its 2019 competition, a group drawn from 134 entries for the 12th annual iteration of the award.

A new high of seven women authors are included in the list of novels, which were published between July 2017 and June 2018. The 16 authors of the group range in age from 43 to 79 and represent nine countries.

Six of the longlisted authors have been in contention for the prize in the past. They include:

  • Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, longlisted for The Leafy Tree in 2010
  • Hoda Barakat, longlisted for The Kingdom of the Earth in 2013
  • Inaam Kachachi, shortlisted for The American Granddaughter in 2009 and again in 2014 for Tashari
  • Waciny Laredj, longlisted on three occasions for The Andalusian House in 2011, Lolita’s Fingers in 2013 and Ashes of the East: the Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness in 2014
  • May Menassa,  shortlisted for Walking in the Dust in 2008 and a mentor for IPAF’s 2013 Nadwa
  • Shahla Ujayli, who was shortlisted for A Sky Close to Our House in 2016 and attended the 2014 Nadwa as a mentee

Among the most prestigious literary awards in the Arab world, the annual prize is given to a novel in Arabic with an intent not only to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing but also to promote translation of winning and shortlisted novels into other major languages.

The six shortlisted finalists for the prize will be announced on February 5, and will receive US$10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner, who is to be announced on April 23 on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2019 Longlist
  • Mohammed Abi Samra, Women Without Trace. Lebanon (Riyad al-Rayyes)
  • Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate, Saudi Arabia (Dar Al Saqi)
  • Hoda Barakat, The Night Mail, Lebanon (Dar al-Adab)
  • Jalal Bargas, Women of the Five Senses, Jordan (Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing)
  • Adel Esmat, The Commandments, Egypt (Kotob Khan)
  • Maysalun Hadi, Mohammed’s Brothers, Iraq (Dar al-Dhakira)
  • Huji Jaberm Black Foam, Eritrea (Dar Tanweer, Lebanon)
  • Inaam Kachachi, The Outcast, Iraq (Dar al-Jadid)
  • Waciny Laredj, May: The Nights of Isis Copia, Algeria (Dar al-Adab)
  •  Mohammed Al-Maazuz, What Sin Caused Her to Die?, Morocco (Cultural Book Centre)
  • May Menassa, I Killed My Mother to Live, Lebanon (Riyad al-Rayyes)
  • Mbarek Rabi, Western Mediterranean, Morocco (Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing)
  • Habib Sayah, Me and Haim, Algeria (Dar Mim)
  • Shahla Ujayli, Summer with the Enemy, Syria (Difaf Publishing)
  • Iman Yehia, The Mexican Wife, Egypt (Dar al-Shorouk)
  • Kafa Al-Zou’bi, Cold White Sun, Jordan (Dar al-Adab)

The second title listed, Al-Khamis’ Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate, was awarded the 2018 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.

Ibrahim Nasrallah’s ‘The Second War of the Dog’ is published by Arab Scientific Publishers

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, last year’s winner was the Jordanian-Palestinian author Ibrahim Nasrallah for his cautionary futurist novel, The Second War of the Dog.

The jury for this year’s competition comprises:

  • Charafdin Majdolin, chair, a Moroccan critic and academic
  • Majdolin are Fowziyah AbuKhalid, a Saudi Arabian poet, writer, academic and researcher in social and political issues
  • Zulaikha Aburisha, a Jordanian poet, columnist, researcher and human and women’s rights activist
  • Zhang HongYi, a Chinese academic, translator and researcher
  • Latif Zeitouni, a Lebanese academic and literary critic

In a prepared statement of rationale, Majdolin speaks for the jury, saying, “The novels selected for the longlist this year arise from different experiences and stylistic choices, ranging from the historical to a contemplative kind of realism; from the autobiographical to the documentary; and from extended to economic narrative prose.

“This may be because the authors come from different generations, or from different parts of the Arab world.

“The novels in the last analysis reflect intersecting human pain and disappointment as well as common aspirations.”

And Yasir Suleiman CBE, who chairs the prize’s board of trustees, is quoted, saying, “”The novels chosen by the judges reflect the diversity of concerns that animate contemporary Arab society, even when these concerns are situated in a distant past or located outside the confines of the Arab world.

“Trauma, separation and disruption permeate these novels. The female voice in its multiple diversities resonates in these novels, as do the voices of different generations of Arab writers from different regions of the Arabic-speaking world.

“This is a strong list of established writers and new ones, and it attests to the continued rise of the novel as an uncontested platform of Arab fictional creativity.”

Translation News From the Prize Program

Winning novels published in English last year included Rabai al-Madhoun’s Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba (Hoopoe Fiction) and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld in the UK; Penguin Books in the USA), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018.

More of the program’s titles available in English are Baha Taher’s Sunset Oasis, Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel, Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles, Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly, Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalkand Raja Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace.

This year sees the publication in English of several novels recognized by the prize, including:

  • Mahmoud Shukair’s Praise for the Women of the Family (shortlisted in 2016), translated by Paul Starkey, published by Interlink and out now
  • Sinan Antoon’s Book of Collateral Damage (longlisted in 2017 as al-Fihrist), translated by Jonathan Wright and published by Yale University Press in May
  • George Yaraq’s Guard of the Dead (shortlisted in 2016) and translated by Raphael Cohen, and Ibrahim Abdelmeguid’s Clouds over Alexandria (longlisted in 2014) and translated by Kay Heikkinen both published by Hoopoe in May
  • Dima Wannous’ The Frightened Ones (shortlisted in 2018) translated by Elisabeth Jaquette and published by Harvill Secker in July
  • Ismail Fahd Ismail’s The Old Woman and the River (shortlisted as Al-Sabiliat in 2017) translated by Sophia Vasalou and published by Interlink this autumn

In 2018, the program produced a bilingual author tour in the United States, featuring 2013 Kuwaiti winner Saud Alsanousi and his translator Jonathan Wright. Designed to encourage the readership of high-quality Arabic literature in the States, the 10-day tour was hosted by comparative and Arabic literature departments in leading American universities on the East Coast.

There are plans for future Stateside tours in Illinois, Michigan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Alsanousi has a new novel Mama Hessa’s Mice, coming out in English this autumn, translated by Sawad Hussain and published by AmazonCrossing, the translation imprint of Amazon Publishing.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is here, and more on book prizes in general is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.