2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction longlist unveiled

2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction longlist unveiled

The 16-strong longlist of books contending for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), has been revealed, featuring nine countries.

The novels in contention for the $50,000 (£37,879) award were chosen from 128 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2018 and June 2019.

The longlist for the 2020 prize includes 13 male and three female authors, ranging in age from 34 to 75. “Collectively, the writers address important issues facing the Arab world today and reflect on the region’s rich history and traditions,” IPAF organisers said. “The longlist covers an expanse of Arab history, from ancient Libya and medieval central Asia, to 19th-century Egypt, the mid-20th century in Syria and recent history in Iraq and Algeria. The works depict the destinies of entire cities such as Aleppo, Algiers and Rabat, and of individuals trying to live their lives in the midst of war and chaos.”

Syria boasts the largest number of longlisted authors with four writers nominated: Abdelouahab Aissaoui’s The Spartan Court (Dar Min) along with Salim Barakat for What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady? (Arabic Institute for Research & Publishing), Khaled Khalifa’s No-one Prayed Over Their Graves (Hachette Antoine/Naufal) and Khalil Alrez for The Russian Quarter (Difaf Publishing).

Algeria follows with three longlisted books including Samir Kacimi for The Stairs of Trolar (Editions Barzakh), Said Khatibi’s Firewood of Sarajevo (Al-Ikhtilef) along with Bachir Mefti for The Mingling of the Seasons (Al-Ikhtilef).

Representing Egypt, Rasha Adly is nominated for The Last Days of the Pasha, (Arab Scientific Publishers) while Youssef Ziedan is recognised for Fardeqan—the Detention of the Great Sheikh  (Dar al-Shorouk).

Additionally two Iraqi titles are nominated: Sleeping in the Cherry Field (Dar al-Rafidain) by Azhar Jerjis and The Tank (Al-Mutawassi) by Alia Mamdouh.       

Of the other five nations represented, Saudi Arabian author Magbool Al-Alawi is longlisted for Seferberlik (Dar Al Saqi) while Moroccan author Hassan Aourid is nominated for Al-Mutanabbi’s Rabat (Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi). Jabbour Douaihy, from Lebanon, was chosen for The King of India (Dar Al Saqi) while Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab, from Tunisia, is nominated for The Golden Hamam (Mesaa) and The War of the Gazelle (Tripoli Scientific Bookshop) by Libyan author Aisha Ibrahim completes the longlist.

The longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Muhsin al-Musawi, an Iraqi literary critic and professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature, Comparative & Cultural Studies at Columbia University. Judging alongside al-Musawi were Pierre Abi Saab, a Lebanese critic, journalist and co-founder of the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper; Egyptian journalist and media trainer Reem Magued; Amin Zaoui, an Algerian novelist who writes in both Arabic and French, and professor of Comparative Literature and Contemporary Thought at the Central University of Algiers. Viktoria Zarytovskaya, a Russian academic, researcher and translator, also judged the entries.

The six shortlisted titles will be announced on 4th February 2020. The winner of the 13th IPAF will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on 14th April 2020, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. As well as the $50,000 prize money, the prize also provides funding for an English translation for its winners. 

An annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic, the prize is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism—Abu Dhabi and is run with the support, through mentorship, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.