IPAF Short list Announced

Shortlist Announced for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017

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Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Najwa Binshatwan, Ismail Fahd Ismail, Elias Khoury, Mohammed Abdel Nabi
and Saad Mohammed Rahim have today, Thursday 16 February, been announced as the six authors shortlisted for the tenth International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

The 2017 shortlist, with author names in alphabetical order, is as follows:

Author

Title

Country of origin

Publisher

Mohammed Hasan Alwan

A Small Death

Saudi Arabia

Dar Al Saqi

Najwa Binshatwan

The Slaves' Pens

Libya

Dar Al Saqi

Ismail Fahd Ismail

Al-Sabiliat

Kuwait

Nova

Elias Khoury

Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam

Lebanon

Dar al-Adab

Mohammed Abdel Nabi

In the Spider's Chamber

Egypt

Dar al-Ain

Saad Mohammed Rahim

The Bookseller's Murder

Iraq

Dar wa Maktabat Sutur

 


This year’s six novels showcase the best in contemporary Arabic literature celebrating its rich heritage, while tackling untold stories and addressing topical issues. A Small Death sees the historical and spiritual adventures of Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi brought vividly to life in fiction for the first time. The novel Al-Sabiliat focuses on a woman in southern Iraq who defies the military forces involved in the long war between Iraq and Iran. In The Spider's Chamber challenges taboos to give a voice to a marginalised group, while The Slaves' Pens uncovers the history of slavery in Libya. Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam is a new approach to the Palestinian 'Nakba' of 1948, and the fate of the inhabitants of Lud. Finally, The Bookseller's Murder reveals the artistic, cultured and human dimension of Iraqi civilisation, in the face of destruction following the American occupation.

Mohammed Hasan Alwan is the only author previously shortlisted for the Prize. That shortlisting was in 2013 for his novel The Beaver, he was also a participant in the first IPAF Nadwa in 2009 and a mentor in 2016. Three previously longlisted authors are shortlisted this year: Ismail Fahd Ismail who was longlisted in 2014 for The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend; Elias Khoury who was longlisted in 2013 for Sinalkul; and Mohammed Abdel Nabi who was longlisted in 2013 for The Return of the Sheikh.

The 2017 judging panel is made up of: Sahar Khalifeh (Chair), a Palestinian novelist; Saleh Almani, a Palestinian translator; Fatima al-Haji, a Libyan academic, novelist and broadcaster; Sahar ElMougy, an Egyptian novelist and academic; and Sophia Vasalou, a Greek academic and translator.

The novels selected were chosen from 186 entries from 19 countries, all published between July 2015 and June 2016.

Sahar Khalifeh, the 2017 Chair of Judges, comments:
‘The six novels chosen from the huge number (186) submitted to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction stand out for their brilliant artistic structure, development of characters and treatment of socially sensitive and daring subject matter. Some of them explore taboo areas, while others put their fingers on the pulse of critical situations in the complex Arab world of today and celebrate highlights of Arab heritage.’
 
The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 will be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 25 April 2017, 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.
 
Last year’s winner of the Prize was Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba by Rabai al-Madhoun.
 
Fulfilling its ambition to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize provides funding for English translation for its winners. Al-Madhoun’s Destinies will be published in English by AUC Press this autumn. Also this year, AUC Press is publishing English translations of former shortlisted titles Baghdad Eucharist by Sinan Antoon (shortlisted as Hail Mary in 2013) and Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (shortlisted in 2012).
 
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. 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.
 

IPAF Shortlist 2017 – biographies and synopses
 
Mohammed Hasan Alwan is a Saudi Arabian novelist, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1979. He graduated with a doctorate in International Marketing from the University of Carleton, Canada. Alwan has published five novels to date: The Ceiling of Sufficiency (2002), Sophia (2004), The Collar of Purity (2007), The Beaver (2011), and A Small Death (2016), as well as a non-fiction work, Migration: Theories and Key Factors (2014). His work has appeared in translation in Banipal magazine (Blonde Grass and Statistics, translated by Ali Azeriah), in The Guardian (Oil Field, translated by Peter Clark), and in Words Without Borders (Mukhtar translated by William M. Hutchins). In 2009-10, Alwan was chosen as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40 by the Beirut39 project and his work was published in the Beirut39 anthology. He was also a participant in the first IPAF Nadwa in 2009 and a mentor on the Nadwa in 2016. In 2013, The Beaver was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and in 2015, its French edition (translated by Stéphanie Dujols) won the Prix de la Littérature Arabe awarded in Paris for the best Arabic novel translated into French for that year.
 
A Small Death is the fictionalised account of the life of a Sufi saint, Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, from his birth in Muslim Spain in the 12th century until his death in Damascus. It follows his mystic Sufi experience and heroic travels from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Of a sensitive and anxious nature, Muhyiddin struggles with inner turmoil throughout the course of his travels. Witnessing fictitious events including savage military conflicts, he attempts to fulfil his mission against a backdrop of states and numerous cities where he meets countless people.
 
Najwa Binshatwan is a Libyan academic and novelist, born in 1970. She is the author of two novels: The Horses' Hair (2007) and Orange Content (2008), three collections of short stories and a play. In 2005, The Horses' Hair won the inaugural Sudanese al-Begrawiya Festival prize, in the same year that Sudan was Capital of Arab Culture. She was chosen as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40 by the Beirut39 project and her story The Pool and the Piano was included in the Beirut39 anthology.
 
The Slaves' Pens lifts the lid on the dark, untold history of slavery in Libya, of which the effects can still be felt today. Slave owner Mohammed and his slave Ta'awidha have fallen in love, but their relationship is considered taboo. Living in a community where masters take female slaves as lovers as they please, Mohammed's father sends him on a trading mission in an attempt to distance him from Ta'awidha. During his absence, his mother forces her to miscarry by serving her a spiked drink, and she is married off to another slave. On his return from his trip, Mohammed learns of his family’s activities and he begins searching for his beloved.
 
 
Ismail Fahd Ismail is a Kuwaiti writer and novelist. Born in 1940, he has worked as a full-time writer since 1985. He graduated with a BA in Literature and Criticism from the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts, Kuwait, and has worked as both a teacher and in the administration of educational resources. He also managed an artistic production company. Ismail is regarded as the founder of the art of the novel in Kuwait. Since the appearance of his first novel, The Sky Was Blue, in 1970, he has published 27 novels as well as three short story collections, two plays and several critical studies. His novel The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend (2012) was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014.  His support for a large number of short story writers and novelists and his encouragement of new creative talent had a significant impact on the Kuwaiti and Arab literary scene.
 
Al-Sabiliat explores the reason behind the existence of a green artery in the midst of a vast wasteland in Iraq following the longest war of the 20th century, between Iraq and Iran.  Iraqi forces blocked the entry points of the tributary rivers and streams of the Shatt al-Arab river. This prevented water flowing to the forests of palm trees situated on the western side. Years passed and the palms dried up, no longer bearing fruit. Eventually, all the trees, vegetation and fruit died apart from one green strip of land stretching from the Shatt to the edge of the desert to the west, in an area called "Al-Sabiliat". One old woman is responsible for this green lifeline, which supplies the village and the soldiers living in it.
 
 
Elias Khoury was born in Beirut in 1948. He worked as an assistant editor on Palestinian Affairs magazine (1975-1997) and was editor of the cultural section of As-Safir newspaper (1981-1991), Al-Karmel magazine (1981-83) and the literary supplement of An-Nahar newspaper (1992-2008). Since 2001, he has edited Palestinian Studies magazine. He has previously been a visiting professor at Columbia University, New York (1980-82), global distinguished professor at the University of New York (2001-2014) and visiting professor at the Lebanese American University (2015). He is the author of 13 novels including Little Mountain (1977), The Journey of Little Ghandi (1989) and Sinalkul (2012), which was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, as well as three plays and four critical works on the theatre. His work has been translated into 15 languages.  
 
Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam tells the story of Palestinian Adam Danun and his attempt to write a novel after immigrating to New York. A retelling of his own personal story, the novel recounts his childhood in Lud, Palestine, where in 1948 the city fell to occupying forces who drove out the majority of its inhabitants. Adam's mother remained in the city with her baby and his story is that of the barbed wire encircled Palestinian ghetto created by the occupying army. It is a tale of remaining and an attempt to interpret the victims' silence.
 
 
Mohammed Abdel Nabi is an Egyptian writer, born in 1977. He has a BA in Languages and Translation from the English and Simultaneous Translation Department of Al-Azhar University and currently works as a freelance translator. He has published five short story collections, a novella titled Imprisoned Phantoms (2000) and two novels: The Return of the Sheikh (2011), which was longlisted for the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and The Spider's Room (2016). In 2010, his short story collection, The Ghost of Anton Chekhov, won the Sawiris Literature Prize, and his latest collection, As the Flood Passes the Sleeping Village, won the prize for best short story collection at the 2015 Cairo Book Fair. He publishes creative writing, criticism and translations in a number of newspapers and websites, and since 2009 he has taught creative writing in a workshop called The Story and What Is In It. He recently published a book on narrative techniques with the same title.
 
In the Spider's Chamber is the tale of Hany Mahfouz, a fictional character who shares the real-life experience of more than fifty men arrested in the notorious "Queen Boat" incident in Cairo in 2001, who were either declared innocent or sentenced to prison terms of two or three years. Hany is declared innocent but emerges from the experience a broken man. Having lost the faculty of speech during the trial process, he finds that writing is the best way of healing his soul.
 
 
Saad Mohammed Rahim is an Iraqi writer, born in Diyala province, Eastern Iraq, in 1957. He has worked as a teacher and journalist and his articles have been published in Iraqi and Arab newspapers and periodicals. He is the author of six collections of short stories, a number of political and literary studies and three novels: Twilight of the Wader (2000), winner of the 2000 Iraqi Creativity Award for Fiction, The Song of a Woman, Twilight of the Sea (2012) and The Bookseller's Murder (2016). In 2005, he won the Iraqi Award for Best Investigative Journalism for that year, and was also awarded the 2010 Creativity Prize for the Short Story, for his collection Almond Blossom (2009).
 
The Bookseller's Murder follows Magid Baghdadi, an experienced journalist, who arrives in Baaquba, 60 km north of Baghdad, to conduct a two-month investigation commissioned by a rich and influential anonymous person. He must write a book about the life and mysterious death of 70-year-old Mahmoud al-Marzouq, a bookseller and artist. Magid forms relationships with friends and acquaintances of the deceased and comes across a notebook containing some of his diaries. These record his life in the city since the first day of the US occupation. He also discovers letters between al-Marzouq and Jeanette, a Frenchwoman who worked as a model for artists, with whom he had a relationship when he was a refugee in Paris. From these and other sources, the personality of al-Marzouq comes to life and various chapters of his interesting and complex life are revealed. What will remain obscure is the reason for his death.
 
IPAF 2017: Judging Panel
 

Sahar Khalifeh (Chair) is one of the most important living Palestinian novelists. Her writing focuses on Palestinians' daily life under occupation and on the lives of Arabic women and the discrimination and oppression which hinders their progress in society and participation in the Arab renaissance. She has published 11 novels as well as many articles and studies. Her novels and non-fiction writing have been translated into several languages, including Hebrew, and she has been the recipient of many Arab and international awards, including the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in Egypt, the Mohamed Zafzaf Prize in Morocco, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize (the French readers' prize), the Dubai Al-Thaqafiya magazine Prize, the Alberto Moravia Award for International Fiction and the Cervantes Prize for literature translated into Spanish.
 
Saleh Almani (Palestine) is a translator, born in Homs, Syria, in 1949. Since the late 1970s, he has completed translations of over 100 works of Latin American literature into Arabic, including dozens of books by the most prominent names in Latin American writing. His translations have been published across the Arab world and he has participated in numerous Arab and international conferences, seminars and research groups working on translation as well as overseeing literary translation workshops at the Cervantes Institute, Damascus. He has received numerous awards and honours for his work from the School of Translators in Toledo (part of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, 2013); the Order of Culture, Science and Arts (for Creative Writing), awarded by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, (2014); the Arab Writers Union in Tangiers, Morocco, and Abu Dhabi (2015); the International Gerard of Cremona Translation Prize (2015); and the Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Award for Translation (in the individual achievement category, 2016).

Fatima al-Haji (Libya) is an academic and novelist, and member of the teaching faculty at Tripoli University, currently living in Tunis. She has studied in the UK and Canada and is the author of three books of literary criticism: New Literary Criticism (1998), The Concept of Time in the Libyan Novel (1999), Fictional Discourse (2007, written in English and later published in Arabic) and a novel The Scream of the Ground Floor (2015). She has presented papers at a number of academic and literary conferences and is a former assessor of the pieces appearing in Al-Hikma magazine, published by the philosophy department of the University of Al-Fatih, and the Al-Jil magazine for literary and intellectual studies published by the Jil Centre for Academic Research, Lebanon. From 1996 until 2000, she was on the judging panel assessing works published by the Libyan Writers' Union. She is former head of the translation department at the General Foundation for Culture and is a member of the Libyan Writers' Union and Institute of Journalists.
 
Sahar ElMougy (Egypt) is a novelist and academic. She has published two short story collections and two novels: Noon (2007, winner of the 2007 Cavafis Award) and Daria (1999, winner - as an unpublished manuscript - of the 1998 Sharjah Girls' Clubs Prize for Women's Creative Writing). She teaches English Literature and American Studies at the English Department, the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Since 2012, she has been running a creative writing workshop ("Seshat", after the Ancient Egyptian goddess of writing) at the Doum Cultural Foundation. She also facilitates psychodrama workshops and directs the "Doum Storytelling" theatre group, which gave three performances from 2014-16.  
 
Sophia Vasalou (Greece) studied Arabic and Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and obtained her doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 2006 with a thesis on Mu'tazilite ethical thought. Since then, she has occupied a number of teaching and research posts in different universities and academic institutions, including the University of Cambridge, the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin, the Orient-Institut in Beirut, and New York University Abu Dhabi. She is currently a senior lecturer in philosophical theology in the Department of Theology and Religion at Birmingham University. Her research focuses on Islamic ethical thought, particularly ethical theories appealing to reason. She is also the author of studies on Western philosophical thought. Her published works include Moral Agents and Their Deserts: the Character of Mu'tazilite Ethics (2008, winner of the Albert Hourani Book Award for Middle Eastern Studies in 2009), Schopenhauer and the Aesthetic Standpoint: Philosophy as a Practice of the Sublime (2013) and Ibn Taymiyya's Theological Ethics (2015). She is also a translator of classical and modern Arabic literature.


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