International Prize for Arabic Fiction: The 2024 Longlist

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The 2024 longlist for the annual International Prize for Arabic Fiction includes work from 11 countries and 16 writers.

Image: International Prize for Arabic Fiction

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

‘A Distinctly Epic Feel in Scope and Range’
Amid the crush of book and publishing contests vying for the prize of media coverage at this time of year, the US$50,000 International Prize for Arabic Fiction today (December 14) has announced a 16-title longlist for 2024. That’s a substantial stack of books even for a longlist, and the initial submission pool, we’re told, comprised 133 titles published between July 2022 and June 2023.

The jurors for the prize this year are:

  • Syrian writer Nabil Suleiman, serving as chair
  • Palestinian writer, researcher, and academic Sonia Nimr
  • Czech academic František Ondráš
  • Egyptian critic and journalist Mohamed Shoair
  • Sudanese writer and journalist Hammour Ziada

Eleven markets are represented in this list, with two titles each coming from Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, and one each from Iraq,
Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, this program is at times called “the Arabic Booker.” Organizers would like to put a stop to the use of that term. Neither the administration of the Prize for Arabic Fiction nor those who produce the Booker Prizes recognize or condone the term as accurate, and they are working to clarify that it’s incorrect, the two operations being completely separate from each other. More on that point can be found at the end of this article under our subheading “Disambiguation: Not ‘the Arabic Booker.'”

Related article: ‘18th Sheikh Zayed Book Award Longlists: Translation, Criticism, Development.’ Image: Sheikh Zayed Book Award

This program is also not to be confused with the much larger US$2.1 million Sheikh Zayed Book Award, now in its 18th iteration. Both it and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction typically present their winners’ ceremonies in Abu Dhabi in the late spring at the time of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair—a proximity that probably doesn’t help explicate the fact that they are two discrete events—but the two prize programs are indeed standalone entities:

  • This one, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, honors one winner annually.
  • The Sheikh Zayed Book Award honors 10 laureates each year.
Notes on the Current Longlists

This year’s Arabic Fiction longlist includes a 78-year-old author, while the youngest of the group is reported to be 31.

“A good proportion of the novels on this list will chime with the dark mood that is gripping the Arab world at this alienating moment in history.”Yasir Suleiman, International Prize for Arabic Fiction board

Four of the authors on the longlist presented today have been recognized in the past by this program:

  • Raja Alem was a joint winner of the prize in 2011
  • Mohammed Abdel Nabi was longlisted in 2013 and shortlisted in 2016
  • Rashid al-Daif was longlisted in 2012
  • Amin Zaoui was longlisted in 2013 and 2018, and also served as a juror in the 2020 contest

The coming shortlist for this contest is to comprise six titles drawn from the 16 listed today, and the announcement of that sextet is anticipated on what in some cultures will be Valentine’s Day, February 14. The ultimate winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is scheduled to be announced, as noted in Abu Dhabi, on April 28.

The 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist

Image: International Prize for Arabic Fiction

As usual, the program’s organizers have helpfully presented the longlist to members of the news media with authors listed alphabetically by surname.

Author Title Country of Origin Publisher
Mohammed Abdel Nabi Nearly Every Day Egypt Markez Al Mahrusa
Badriya Albadri Foumbi Oman Dar Al Saqi
Raja Alem Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse, 1945-2009 Saudi Arabia Dar Tanweer
Sara Alsarraf I Heard Everything Iraq Dar Al Hikma
Rima Bali Suleima’s Ring Syria Tanmia Publishing
Rashid Al Daif The Other Face of the Shadow Lebanon Dar Al Saki
Osama Al Eissa The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem Palestine Al Mutawassit
Dorra Al Fazi’ I Hide Passion Tunisia Sindbad
Saleh Al Hamad Eye of the Kite Saudi Arabia Dar Rashm
Basim Khandaqji A Mask, the Color of the Sky Palestine Dar Al Adab
Ahmed Menour Storm Over the Islands Algeria Dar Al Tanweer, Algeria
Ahmed Al Morsi Gambling on the Honor of Lady Mitsy Egypt Dar Dawen
Eissa Nasiri The Mosaicist Morocco Masciliana
Salha Obeid Spice Circle United Arab Emirates  Al Mutawassit
Sufyan Rajab Reader of the Tanners’ Alley Tunesia  Masciliana
Amin Zaoui The Idols Algeria Editions Daiman Algeria
Comments on the Release of the Longlist: Two Suleimans

Nabil Suleiman, chair of the 2023-2024 jury, is quoted on the release today of these longlistees, saying, “The longlist for this year’s prize cycle comprises rich and varied narratives.

Nabil Suleiman

“A broad range of  Arab countries is represented, resulting in the exploration of diverse experiences, settings, and characters. The list presents fictional characters who face complex societal issues, some old and others new, and topics such as the role of the arts, women’s rights, and cross-cultural  interaction.

“Some novels explore individual consciousness, and others national consciousness. They open up new perspectives by interrogating history to connect past and present struggles, particularly in places rocked by despotism, persecution, wars, uprisings, expulsions, and exile.

“Each offers compelling and original narratives, and considered together, the list has a distinctly epic feel in scope and range.”

Yasir Suleiman

And Yasir Suleiman, since 2014 the chair of this prize program’s board, is quoted, saying, “The longlist for this year’s prize cycle displays a larger than usual variety of voices from different parts of the Arabic language world, some of whom are newcomers to the world of  the novel.

“Rooted in their local environments, some works provide unsettling narrations of  the situations they encounter, to reveal the entrenched social and political ills pervading those environments.

“Returning to a mythic and ancient past, others use this history to provide counter-intuitive readings of the present. Some titles meanwhile use experimental modes of  narration to weave parallel storylines to display fracture and complexity. At a profound  affective level, a good proportion of the novels on this list will chime with the dark mood that  is gripping the Arab world at this alienating moment in history.”

Disambiguation: Not ‘the Arabic Booker’

For clarification, this award program sometimes is called “the Arabic Booker,” but the program’s organizers say they’re ready to see the end of that misleading terminology.

While it was initially mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction’s organizers stress on their site that the Arabic Booker phrase is “not instigated nor endorsed at all by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction or the Booker Prize Foundation, which are two completely separate, independent organizations.”

The program goes on to put it even more bluntly, writing that the International Prize for Arabic Fiction “is not in any way connected with the Booker Prize,” italics ours.

Currently, the US$50,000 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, which under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim also produces the extensive Sheikh Zayed Book Award, with its 7.8-million-dirham purse (US$2.1 million), annually recognizing winning books in nine categories and a “Cultural Personality of the Year.”

That last award for the Cultural Personality includes a purse of 1 million dirhams (US$272,262).

Both of these award programs make generous efforts in funding translation of Arabic content into other languages.

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 on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, and more on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

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.

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