The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2023 prize, which will award $50,000 to the ultimate winner.
Collectively, the longlisted authors span the age range of 40 to 77 and hail from nine countries. The novels cover an extensive range of topics, including migration, exile, the refugee experience, and both fleeting and profound human relationships. Explorations of childhood are prevalent, with coming-of-age narratives revealing the ramifications of political unrest and conflict on the family and country from a child’s perspective.
There are examples of satire and dark, dystopian themes, as well as magical realism and allegory, using folklore and oral traditions to make sense of current social or political issues. Many characters across the 16 titles show an impulse to record historic events, preserve cultural heritage or family stories from times past, and have a preoccupation with the act of creation itself. The archive is a recurring trope, symbolizing state surveillance and control of citizens’ lives, and there are multiple examples of carefully constructed tension between the boundaries of fiction, history, and biography.
The longlist has been chosen from a total of 124 submissions by a panel of five judges chaired by Moroccan writer and novelist, Mohammed Achaari. Joining him on the judging panel are Egyptian academic and novelist Reem Bassiouney, Algerian novelist, researcher, and journalist Fadhila El Farouk, Swedish university professor and translator Tetz Rooke, and Omani writer and academic Aziza al-Ta’I.
Authors on the 2023 longlist who have been previously recognized by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction are Ahmad Abdulatif (longlisted in 2018 for The Earthen Fortress); Najwa Binshatwan (shortlisted in 2017 for The Slave Yards); Lina Huyan Elhassan (shortlisted in 2015 for Diamonds and Women) who is also a former Nadwa participant; Aisha Ibrahim (longlisted in 2020 for The War of the Gazelle); Nasser Iraq (shortlisted in 2012 for The Unemployed); Azher Jerjis (longlisted in 2020 for Sleeping in the Cherry Field); and Miral al-Tahawy (shortlisted in 2011 for Brooklyn Heights).
Nine further authors are recognized by the prize for the first time: Fatima Abdulhamid, Al-Sadiq Haj Ahmed, Zahran Alqasmi, Ahmed El-Fakharany, Mohammed Harradi, Sausan Jamil Hasan, Rabia Raihane, Qassem Tawfik, and May Telmissany.
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, part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and was originally mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.
Mohammed Achaari, Chair of the 2023 judges, said: “The novels on this year’s longlist are marked by a large number of female Arab writers and a striking diversity in both subject matter and narrative style. Whilst a preoccupation with current, newsworthy issues of the Arab world – in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, and other countries – permeates a significant number of the books, others turn to the roots of these events in history, the state, society, and culture.”
Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: The longlisted novels this year delve into aspects of the enduring themes of fracture and displacement we have witnessed in past submissions to the Prize, as well as the devastating effect of conflict on the fabric of Arab societies.”
The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced on Wednesday 1 March 2023 at an event in the National Library of Kuwait. The winner of the prize will be announced on 21 May 2023 in Abu Dhabi.