Tareq Bakari, Rabai al-Madhoun, Mohamed Rabie, Mahmoud Shukair, Shahla Ujayli and George Yaraq have today, Tuesday 9 February, been announced as the six authors shortlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). Their names were revealed by a judging panel chaired by Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban at a press conference hosted by The Cultural Club in Muscat, Oman.
The full 2016 shortlist, with author names in alphabetical order, is as follows:
Numedia by Tareq Bakari, Morocco
Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba
By Rabai al-Madhoun, Palestine
Mercury by Mohamed Rabie, Egypt
Praise for the Women of the Family by Mahmoud Shukair, Palestine
A Sky Close to Our House by Shahla Ujayli, Syria
The Guard of the Dead by George Yaraq, Lebanon
This year’s six novels are wide-ranging in subject matter, setting and style. They include: the story of a Moroccan intellectual searching for identity through a series of relationships (Numedia); a pioneering novel, written in four parts – each representing a concerto movement – on the subject of Palestinian life both in occupation and exile (Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba); a dystopian imagining of “the counter revolution” in Egypt, set in a nightmarish future where the police battle against a mysterious occupying power (Mercury); the story of the Al-Abd al-Lat tribe, former Bedouins whose women play a vital role in integrating the family into urban Palestinian society during the 1950s (Praise for the Women of the Family); memories of Syria’s past and times of tolerance and simple pleasures from the viewpoint of a Syrian woman now living in exile in Amman after her town, Raqqa, is occupied by ISIS (A Sky Close to Our House) and, finally, a new perspective on the Lebanese Civil War through the eyes of a hospital undertaker, whose former life as a mercenary puts his life in danger (The Guard of the Dead).
One previously shortlisted author, Rabai al-Madhoun, makes the list. His novel The Lady of Tel Aviv was shortlisted in 2010 and has been translated into English by Telegram Books. One debut novel, Numedia, also makes the list.
Two of the shortlisted authors have participated in the IPAF nadwa, Mohamed Rabie in 2012 and Shahla Ujayli in 2014. Ujayli worked on what is now the fifth chapter of her shortlisted book, A Sky Close to Our House, during the workshop and credits the experience with helping her move forward with the novel.
The 2016 judges are: Amina Thiban (Chair), an Emirati poet and academic specialising in literature;Sayyed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist and poet, who is currently editor of Al-Qahira newspaper; Mohammed Mechbal, a Moroccan academic and critic; Munir Mujić, a Bosnian academic, translator and researcher and Abdo Wazen, a Lebanese poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the cultural pages of Al-Hayat newspaper.
The novels selected were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months.
Amina Thiban, Chair, comments on the shortlist: “The process of choosing the shortlist was a pleasure and a challenge in equal measure. This year’s list features a number of experimental works, which try out new ground as they explore the experiences of the individual and the larger concerns of the Arab world, from personal issues to social, political and historical ones. The shortlisted novels are characterised by their innovative narrative forms and styles, which both question the heritage of the Arabic novel and address the tragedy of the present day Middle East.”
This is the ninth year of the Prize, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world.
Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, added: “This is a strong list, one that reflects the energy of the Arab literary scene as it marches forward to reach an ever-expanding readership. Through their subjects, well-crafted characters and technical ingenuity, these novels transcend their local sources to reach distant shores where the human spirit is the ultimate champion.”
IPAF will take place in further activity in Oman in late February, when 2013 winner Saud Alsanousi will take part in the Muscat International Book Fair and an event with students at Sultan Qaboos University.
The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, 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.
Delivering on its aim to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize has guaranteed English translations for all of its winners. Raja Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth), will be published on 2 June this year and Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing) was published in 2015. Other winners translated into English include Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis (Sceptre), Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel (Atlantic Books) and Abdo Khal’s Throwing Sparks and Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly (both Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation). 2014 IPAF winner Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi has also secured English publication with Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.
For further information about the Prize, please visit www.arabicfiction.org or follow the Prize on Facebook.