The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed its longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2018 prize, including a novel soon to be published by independent UK publisher Oneworld.
One of the youngest authors on the longlist, Iraqi writer Shahad Al Rawi, is nominated for her debut novel Baghdad Clock (Dar al-Hikma, London). While the prize's mission is to extend the international reach of Arabic fiction by providing funding for English translation for its winners, Baghdad Clock has already been translated into English and is due to be published by Oneworld this year. The novel follows two young girls, who become best friends in a Baghdad bomb shelter in the early 90s, through childhood, adolescence and university, until the war and the fall of Baghdad, which triggers a new wave of departures from the capital.
Al Rawi will compete in a lineup that includes three previously shortlisted authors: Amir Tag Elsir (2011, The Grub Hunter); Atef Abu Saif (2015, A Suspended Life); and Ibrahim Nasrallah (2009, Time of White Horses). Previously shortlisted author Tag Elsir, a Sudanese doctor who works in Qatar, is in the running in 2018 for Flowers Consumed by Fire (Dar Al Saqi); Abu Saif, a Palestinian writer and chief editor of Siyasat magazine, for Christine (Al Ahlia); and Nasrallah, another Palestinian writer whose novels have covered 250 years of Palestine's modern history, is recognised for The Second War of the Dog (Arab Scientific Publishers).
A further five of this year’s list have been longlisted before: Fadi Azzam, from Syria, this time longlisted for Huddud’s House (Dar al-Adab); Antoine Douaihy, from Lebanon, for The Last Country (Arab Scientific Publishers); Hamed al-Nazir, from Sudan, for The Black Peacock (Medad); Taleb al-Refai, from Kuwait, for Al-Najdi (That al-Salasil); and Amin Zaoui. from Alegeria, for Leg Over Leg - in the Sighting of the Lovers' Crescent (Al-Ikhtilef).
Four novelists from Palestine appear on the longlist, with Walid Shurafa recognised by the prize for the first time for Heir of the Tombstones (Al Ahlia) and Hussein Yassin for Ali, the Story of an Honourable Man (Dar al-Ru'aat). The remaining novels on the longlist - whose authors also haven't been nominated before - are Rasha Adly's Passion (Arab Scientific Publishers); Aziz Mohammed's The Critical Case of "K" (Dar Tanweer, Lebanon); and Dima Wannous' The Frightened Ones (Dar al-Adab).
The selected novels, hailing from 10 countries in total, were chosen from 124 entries from 14 countries, all published between July 2016 and June 2017.
Chair of the judges Ibrahim Al Saafin commented: "The novels on the longlist are thematically and stylistically varied: realistic, fantastical, historical and social, but all in their different ways tackling Arab reality and the challenges faced by Arab societies on political, cultural and human levels, as well as grappling with questions of identity. They bring to life the tragic distortions and dreams of these societies, delving deep into the past to throw light on current issues."
Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, chair of the Board of Trustees, added: "The longlist for this year sees the return of writers who appeared on IPAF lists in previous years as well as authors who make their debut for the first time. This combination of talent is a testimony to the enduring value of the Prize as a platform for Arabic literary creativity in its continued effort to grapple with some of the most pressing issues in Arab life. It is this commonality of interest that marks the Arab novel as the voice of our time, whispering in our ears, subtly but boldly, that creativity knows no bounds in its rendition of the human condition in troubled times."
The shortlist, worth $10,000 to each of six shortlisted authors, will be announced in February. The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at an awards ceremony held at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on 24th April - the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.