'Daring' Arabic Fiction Prize shortlist revealed

'Daring' Arabic Fiction Prize shortlist revealed

Mohammed Hasan Alwan has been shortlisted for a second time for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

Alwan, who also made the shortlist in 2013 for his novel The Beaver, is this year recognised for A Small Death, about the historical and spiritual adventures of Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi, published by Dar Al Saqi. He was also a participant in the first IPAF Nadwa in 2009 and a mentor in 2016.

This year the shortlist was praised for the selected novels' "daring subject matter", many of which touches on "taboo" topics. Ismail Fahd Ismail, previously longisted in 2014, was this year shorltisted for Al-Sabiliat, about a woman in southern Iraq who defies the military forces involved in the long war between Iraq and Iran; and, both previously longlisted in 2013, Elias Khoury is shortlisted for Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam, a new approach to the Palestinian 'nakba' of 1948, while Mohammed Abdel Nabi is recognised for In the Spider's Chamber, about challenging taboos to give a voice to a marginalised group.

Najwa Binshatwan and Saad Mohammed Rahim complete the six-strong shortlist, with The Slaves' Pens (Dar Al Saqi), uncovering the history of slavery in Libya, and The Bookseller's Murder (Dar wa Maktabat Sutur), ruminating on artistic culture of Iraqi civilisation in the face of destruction following the American occupation.

Combined, the six novels are said to showcase "the best in contemporary Arabic literature" of the past year - "celebrating its rich heritage, while tackling untold stories and addressing topical issues". The authors on the 2017 shortlist each hailing from a different country, spanning Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.

The novels selected were chosen from 186 entries from 19 countries, all published between July 2015 and June 2016, by judges Sahar Khalifeh, a Palestinian novelist, Saleh Almani, a Palestinian translator; Fatima al-Haji, a Libyan academic, novelist and broadcaster; Sahar ElMougy, an Egyptian novelist and academic; and Sophia Vasalou, a Greek academic and translator.

Khalifeh, chair of judges, said: "The six novels chosen from the huge number (186) submitted to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction stand out for their brilliant artistic structure, development of characters and treatment of socially sensitive and daring subject matter. Some of them explore taboo areas, while others put their fingers on the pulse of critical situations in the complex Arab world of today and celebrate highlights of Arab heritage."

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 will be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 25th April 2017, 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, for funding for English translation.

Last year’s winner, Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba by Rabai al-Madhoun, publishes in English with AUC Press this autumn.