Awards: International Prize for Arabic Fiction, 2022 Longlist and Jurors

In News by Porter Anderson

The 16 longlisted novels in the International Prize for Arabic Fiction this year include work from nine nations and celebrate ‘revival and development of the Arabic novel.’

Eight of the 16 longlisted titles in the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction competition are, clockwise from upper left, ‘In Search of Nizar’; ‘The Alley of the Italians’; ‘Farah’s Story’; ‘The White Minaret’; ‘Where Is My Name’; ‘The Abyssinian Rimbaud’; ‘Cairo Maquette’; and ‘Mother of Mimi’

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Yasir Suleiman: ‘The Unresolved Questions’
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is one of the programs of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, which is chaired by Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, who is also secretary-general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. The Prize for Arabic Fiction is now in its 15th iteration and has released its 2022 longlist of 16 titles.

The award program provides a purse of US$50,000 to its winner. Longlisted titles by authors ranging in age from 36 to 65 come from nine countries: Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. The lead lies with Egypt, at four of the 16 titles on the longlist.

In addition to the honor of winning, this program carries critical translation funding for its winners’ books to support their distribution in the English language.

There are two former nominees of the program on this year’s longlist. Ezzedine Choukri Fishere was longlisted in 2009 for Intensive Care and shortlisted in 2012 for Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge. Haji Jabir was longlisted in 2019 for Black Foam. In addition, two of the longlistees this year are past participants in the prize’s “Nadwa” writers’ workshop for younger writers from the Arab world. They are Tarek Imam and Reem al-Kamali.

Shukri Mabkhout

The 16 novels—from an initial pool of 122 entries—have been placed onto the longlist by a 2022 jury chaired by the Tunisian novelist, academic and previous Prize for Arabic Fiction winner (The Italian, 2015) Shukri Mabkhout.

He is accompanied on the panel by:

  • Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi
  • Lebanese writer and PEN International board member Iman Humaydan
  • Kuwaiti poet and critic Saadiah Mufarreh
  • Bulgarian academic and translator Baian Rayhanova
International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2022 Longlist

The remaining eight of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction’s 2022 longlist are, clockwise from upper left, ‘Dilshad’; ‘The Prisoner of the Portuguese’; ‘The White Line of Night’; ‘Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad’; ‘The Hungarian’; ‘The Maids of the Shrine’; ‘Where Is My Name’; and ‘Whisper of the Scorpion’

Author Title Country of Origin Publisher
Nizar Aghri In Search of Azar Syria Al Kotob Khan
Boumediene Belkebir The Alley of the Italians Algeria Al-Ikhtilef
Yaa’rab al-Eissa The White Minaret Syria Al-Mutawassit
Belal Fadl Mother of Mimi Egypt Dar al-Mada
Ezzedine Choukri Fishere Farah’s Story Egypt Dar al-Shorouk
Tarek Imam Cairo Maquette Egypt Al-Mutawassit
Haji Jabir The Abyssinian Rimbaud Eritrea Takween-Kuwait
Reem al-Kamali Rose’s Diary United Arab Emirates Dar al-Adab
Bushra Khalfan Dilshad Oman Takween-Iraq
Mohsine Loukili The Prisoner of the Portuguese Morocco Dar Mim
Khaled Nasrallah The White Line of Night Kuwait Dar Al Saqi
Mohammed al-Nu’as Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad Libya Rashm
Rouchdi Reouane The Hungarian Algeria Dar al-Ain
Mona al-Shammari The Maids of the Shrine Kuwait Dar Al Saqi
Dima al-Shukr Where Is My Name? Syria Dar al-Adab
Mohamed Tawfik The Whisper of the Scorpion Egypt Dar al-Ain
Commentary on the 2022 Longlist

International Prize for Arabic Fiction jurors working this year with chair Shukri Mabkhout are, from left, Asher Etwebi (image: Ole Ekker); Baian Rayhanova; Iman Humaydan; and Saadiah Mufarreh

In a prepared statement, jury chair Mabkhout is quoted, saying, “Submissions for the prize this year were of high quality, proving once again that the revival and development of the Arabic novel make it the best literary genre to give expression to the concerns of Arab peoples today, in their different local environments.  

“The longlist chosen by the judges presents readers and those interested in the Arabic novel with a rich and varied literary feast, representing different types of fictional endeavor by Arab novelists in the past year. It stands out for its variety, wit, inventiveness, and concern with form as well as content.

“Some of these writers have built tight plots, demonstrating deftness in their construction, while others resorted to complete fragmentation, showing a clear bent for experimentation.

“After turning the last pages of these books, readers will be unable to forget their appealing, carefully portrayed, and multi-dimensional protagonists, with their undeniable, rich humanity.

Yasir Suleiman

And Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of trustees, is quoted, saying, “The novels on the longlist continue to explore a range of themes that deal with fracture and the unresolved questions that have bedeviled the relationship of Arab society and culture with its various strands and with the external ‘other.’

“Voices from the margins of society are made to speak and question in different registers of exclusion and resistance that articulate the feeling of alienation, bewilderment, and at the margins some nascent hope.

“Despite their considerable local achievements on the Arab literary scene, authors on this list are poised to be celebrated by a broad pan-Arab readership at home and in the diaspora.”

It’s anticipated that a shortlist of six titles will be presented by the jury in March, with a winner to be named in May.

Translation Updates

Winning novels published in English include:

Additional publications include:

  • Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk
  • Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly
  • Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth, UK, and Overlook Press, US)
  • Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles
  • Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis (Sceptre)

According to International Prize for Arab Fiction organizers, 2021 saw the publication into English of several novels recognized by the prize, including:

  • Sarajevo Firewood by Said Khatibi (shortlisted 2020), translated by Paul Starkey and published by Banipal Books
  • Aziz Mohammed’s The Critical Case of a Man Called ‘K’ (shortlisted 2018) translated by Humphrey Davies and published by Hoopoe
  • All the Women Inside Me by Jana Elhassan (shortlisted 2013 as Me, She and the Other Women) and Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (shortlisted 2019), both translated by Michelle Hartman and published by Interlink Books (USA)
  • Hot Maroc by Yassin Adnan (longlisted 2017), translated by Alexander E. Elinson and published by Syracuse University Press
  • The Book Smuggler by Omaima Al-Khamis (longlisted as Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate in 2019), translated by Sarah Enany and published by Hoopoe

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Enany’s translation of Rasha Adly’s 2018-longlisted novel Passion (translated as The Girl With the Braided Hair) has been announced this month as the winner of the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

It’s expected that this year’s publication news related to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction will include:

  • The publication in English of Jalal Barjas’ Notebooks of the Bookseller (winner of the 2021 prize) and The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted 2020), both by Michel Moushabeck’s Interlink
  • Douaihy’s 2012-shortlisted novel The Vagrant is also to be published by Seagull
  • Other titles include two shortlisted books from 2021, The Calamity of the Nobility by Amira Ghenim (Europa Editions) and The Bird Tattoo by Dunya Mikhail (US publisher Pegasus)

In addition, Interlink has acquired the English-language rights for Tashari by Inaam Kachachi (shortlisted 2014), while Gallimard has secured French rights for Kachachi’s 2019-shortlisted novel The Outcast.

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

More from Publishing Perspectives on the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic 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.