Two debuts make Arabic Fiction prize shortlist

Two debuts make Arabic Fiction prize shortlist

Two debut novels are battling it out on the shortlist for the $50,000 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), including one soon to be published by Oneworld.

First time writers Aziz Mohammed and Shahad Al Rawi, the youngest authors to have made the award longlist, have also made the six-strong shortlist along with Amir Tag Elsir, Ibrahim Nasrallah, Walid Shurafa and Dima Wannous.

Iraqui author Al Rawi’s Baghdad Clock has already been translated into English and will be published in June by Oneworld after being acquired in April last year. The story of a young Iraqi girl and her best friend whose lives are irrevocably altered in war-torn Baghdad was originally published by London-based publisher and bookseller Dar al-Hikma.

Al Fawi is vying for the $50,000 (£36,000) prize with fellow debut writer Mohammed, from Saudi Arabia, who is nominated for The Critical Case of "K" (Dar Tanweer, Lebanon), a tale of a Kafka-inspired writer with cancer.

Sudanese writer Tag Elsir is in the running for Flowers in Flames (Dar Al Saqi), which explores how women in Sudan have becomes objects of pleasure under the rule of an extremist group, while Nasrallah, from Palestine/ Jordan, is shortlisted for the dystopian The Second War of the Dog (Arab Scientific Publishers), set in a society driven by greed. Both authors have been shortlisted previously.

Heir of the Tombstones (Al Ahlia), by Palestine writer Shurafa, explores an Israeli artist's village, while Syrian author Wannous’ novel about a women dominated by fear, The Frightened Ones (Dar al-Adab), completes the shortlist.

This year’s six novels, selected from the longlist of 16, and published between July 2016 and June 2017, are nominated for celebrating “the best of contemporary Arabic literature” according to prize organisers.

Alongside panel chair Ibrahim Al Saafin, a Jordanian academic and writer, the judges include Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet, Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist, Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.

Chair of the judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, said: "The six novels on the shortlist delighted the judges with their fresh exploration of social, political and existentialist themes. Narrative techniques were varied, from the form of diary entries and a novel within a novel, to several authors taking inspiration from the fantasy genre.”

He said the novels “allude to the challenging new realities of the Arab world, from Syria to Sudan, but transcend the factual and prosaic”.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

The 2018 prize winner will be announced at a ceremony in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on 24th April, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.

Last year’s winner was A Small Death by Mohammed (Dar Al Saqi) Hasan Alwan.