International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 & judges

2022 longlist represents authors from nine countries across the Middle East & Africa

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Arabic fiction
The Alley of the Italians by Boumediene Belkebir, Algeria (Al-Ikhtilef). Photo International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Wednesday 26 January 2022, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2022 prize, which will award US$ 50,000 (approximately Rs 37 lakh) to the ultimate winner. All the novels selected for this year’s longlist were published in Arabic between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021. The longlist has been chosen by the judges from a selection of 122 entries. 

Collectively the longlisted authors span the age range of 30-65 and hail from nine countries. This year’s novels cover an extensive range of topics, from the struggle for artists to survive while facing war and state persecution, to the relationship between East and West, freedom, motherhood, and gender roles. While strongly affirming the cultural and religious diversity of Arab society, they condemn those who exploit sectarian conflicts to amass ill-gotten gains. The books give African and Arab women a voice, recounting the untold stories of two such women who lived in the shadow of famous Western writers.    

The longlist has been chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Tunisian novelist, academic, and previous IPAF winner (The Italian, 2015) Shukri Mabkhout. Joining him on the judging panel are Libyan doctor, poet, and translator Ashur Etwebi, Lebanese writer and PEN International board member Iman Humaydan, Kuwaiti poet and critic Saadiah Mufarreh, and Bulgarian academic and translator Baian Rayhanova. 

Authors on the 2022 longlist who have been previously recognized by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction are Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (longlisted in 2009 for Intensive Care and shortlisted in 2012 for Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge) and Haji Jabir (longlisted in 2019 for Black Foam). Former Nadwa participants Tarek Imam and Reem al-Kamali also feature on the 2022 longlist. 

Many authors on the longlist are being recognized by the prize for the first time. They are — Nizar Aghri, Boumediene Belkebir, Yaa’rab al-Eissa, Belal Fadl, Tarek Imam, Reem al-Kamali, Bushra Khalfan, Mohsine Loukili, Khaled Nasrallah, Mohammed al-Nu’as, Rouchdi Redouane, Mona al-Shammari, Dima al-Shukr, and Mohamed Tawfik.

The full 2022 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is as follows:

  • In Search of Azar by Nizar Aghri, Syria (Al Kotob Khan)
  • The Alley of the Italians by Boumediene Belkebir, Algeria (Al-Ikhtilef)
  • The White Minaret by Yaa’rab al-Eissa, Syria (Al-Mutawassit)
  • Mother of Mimi by Belal Fadl, Egypt (Dar al-Mada)
  • Farah’s Story by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, Egypt (Dar al-Shorouk)
  • Cairo Maquette by Tarek Imam, Egypt (Al-Mutawassit)
  • The Abyssinian Rimbaud by Haji Jabir, Eritrea (Takween – Kuwait)
  • Rose’s Diary by Reem al-Kamali, UAE (Dar al-Adab)
  • Dilshad by Bushra Khalfan, Oman (Takween – Iraq)
  • The Prisoner of the Portuguese by Mohsine Loukili, Morocco (Dar Mim)
  • The White Line of Night by Khaled Nasrallah, Kuwait (Dar Al Saqi)
  • Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad by Mohammed al-Nu’as, Libya (Rashm)
  • The Hungarian by Rouchdi Redouane, Algeria (Dar al-Ain)
  • The Maids of the Shrine by Mona al-Shammari, Kuwait (Dar Al Saqi)
  • Where Is My Name? by Dima al-Shukr, Syria (Dar al-Adab)
  • The Whisper of the Scorpion by Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt (Dar al-Ain)

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for novels in Arabic. It is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and was originally mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London. 

Shukri Mabkhout, Chair of the 2022 Judges, said, “Submissions for the Prize this year were of high quality, proving once again that the revival and development of the Arabic novel make it the best literary genre to give expression to the concerns of Arab peoples today, in their different local environments.”   

“The longlist chosen by the judges presents readers and those interested in the Arabic novel with a rich and varied literary feast, representing different types of fictional endeavor by Arab novelists in the past year. It stands out for its variety, wit, inventiveness, and concern with form as well as content. Some of these writers have built tight plots, demonstrating deftness in their construction, whilst others resorted to complete fragmentation, showing a clear bent for experimentation. After turning the last pages of these books, readers will be unable to forget their appealing, carefully portrayed, and multi-dimensional protagonists, with their undeniable, rich humanity.”  

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “The novels on the longlist for this, the fifteenth prize cycle, continue to explore a range of themes that deal with fracture and the unresolved questions that have bedeviled the relationship of Arab society and culture with its various strands and with the external Other. Voices from the margins of society are made to speak and question in different registers of exclusion and resistance that articulate the feeling of alienation, bewilderment, and, at the margins, some nascent hope. Despite their considerable local achievements on the Arab literary scene, authors on this list are poised to be celebrated by a broad pan-Arab readership at home and in the diaspora.”   

The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced in March 2022. The winner of the prize will be announced in May 2022

In fulfilling its ambition to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize provides funding for English translation for its winners. Winning novels published in English include Hoda Barakat’s The Night Mail (translated as Voices of the Lost, Oneworld); Rabai al-Madhoun’s Fractured Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba (Hoopoe); Shukri Mabkhout’s The Italian (Europa Editions); Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld, UK, and Penguin Books, US); Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk;  Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly; Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace (Duckworth, UK, and Overlook Press, US); Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles; Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel (Atlantic Books); and Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis (Sceptre).

2021 saw the publication into English of several novels recognized by the prize, including Sarajevo Firewood by Said Khatibi (shortlisted 2020), translated by Paul Starkey and published by Banipal Books; Aziz Mohammed’s The Critical Case of “K” (shortlisted 2018) translated by Humphrey Davies and published by Hoopoe; All the Women Inside Me by Jana Elhassan (shortlisted 2013 as Me, She and the Other Women) and Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (shortlisted 2019), both translated by Michelle Hartman and published by Interlink Books (USA); Hot Maroc by Yassin Adnan (longlisted 2017), translated by Alexander E. Elinson and published by Syracuse University Press; The Book Smuggler by Omaima Al-Khamis (longlisted as Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate in 2019), translated by Sarah Enany and published by Hoopoe. Sarah Enany’s translation of Rasha Adly’s 2018-longlisted novel Passion (translated as The Girl with Braided Hair) has just been announced as the winner of the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.   

2022 will see the publication in English of Jalal Barjas’ Notebooks of the Bookseller (winner of the 2021 prize) and The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted 2020), both by Interlink. Douaihy’s 2012-shortlisted novel The Vagrant will also be published by Seagull. Other titles include two shortlisted books from 2021, The Calamity of the Nobility by Amira Ghenim (Europa Editions) and The Bird Tattoo by Dunya Mikhail (US publisher Pegasus). Interlink has acquired the English-language rights for Tashari by Inaam Kachachi (shortlisted 2014), while Gallimard has secured French rights for Kachachi’s 2019-shortlisted novel The Outcast.

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