Record shortlisting of four female authors for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Record shortlisting of four female authors for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

A record four female authors have been shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) worth $50,000.

Three women who have been recognised by the prize before have made the 2019 list, including Inaam Kachachi for The Outcast (Dar al-Jadid)  (shortlisted twice before) along with Shahla Ujayli, the youngest on the list for Summer with the Enemy (Difaf Publishing), shortlisted in 2016, and Lebanese Hoda Barakat for The Night Mail (Dar al-Adab), six years after a previous longlisting.

These three authors are competing to win the $50,000 prize with Egyptian novelist Adel Esmat, who is nominated for The Commandments (Kotob Khan), Moroccan political anthropologist Mohammed Al-Maazuz for What Sin Caused her to Die? (Cultural Book Centre) and Jordanian writer Kafa Al-Zou’bi, who is shortlisted with her fifth novel Cold White Sun (Dar al-Adab).

This year’s six shortlisted novels, selected from a longlist of 16 and published in Arabic between July 2017 and June 2018 and "showcase the best of contemporary Arabic fiction, exploring issues of belonging, societal changes over generations of Arab families and the ongoing battle against the fundamental flaws of human nature," according to award organisers.

With four female authors vying for the prize, this year has the highest number since the prize began in 2008, previously there have only been two nominations. Each shortlisted author will take home $10,000. Each year, the shortlist is announced in a different centre of Arabic writing and for 2019 the Trustees of the prize chose Jerusalem, along with Ramallah and Bethlehem, "for a series of events in recognition of the flourishing Palestinian literary scene,” prize organisers said.

The books were revealed by the judging panel during a press conference held at the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem. 

Charafdin Majdolin, chair of the judging panel, said: "The six novels chosen are very different in their subject matter, styles and aesthetic choices. They can be described as novels about family, memory, disappointment, exile and migration and they reflect varied local environments, coming as they do from different Arabic countries. These novels convey deep, mature and powerful visions of the current Arab reality, while also employing brilliant narrative forms that will resonate with readers and professional critics alike.” 

Professor Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of trustees, added: “The fact that four out of the six shortlisted authors are women is a first in the history of the prize. On this occasion, Jerusalem, a city steeped in Arab literary culture, provides a fitting scene for announcing the shortlist."

This week, to celebrate the shortlist, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction will host a series of events across Palestine in partnership with the British Council and The Educational Bookshop.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2019 will be announced at a ceremony in Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on 23rd April, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.