The Shortlist Finalist Announced for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) 2011


Shortlist Announced for the

International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011

MOHAMMED ACHAARI, RAJA ALEM, KHALID AL-BARI, BENSALEM HIMMICH, AMIR TAJ AL-SIR and MIRAL AL-TAHAWY are the six authors announced today, Thursday 9 December 2010, as the shortlisted finalists for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011. The shortlisted authors were revealed at a press conference with the panel of judges in Doha, Qatar, 2010 Arab Capital of Culture.

The shortlist includes one previously longlisted author, Bensalem Himmich, whose novel The Man from Andalucia was longlisted during the 2009 Prize.

The shortlist was announced by Fadhil Al-Azzawi, the 2011 Chair of Judges, whose name was also revealed alongside a panel of four other Judges today. All five Judges are specialists in the field of Arabic literature and come from Iraq, Bahrain, Italy, Jordan and Morocco.

The six shortlisted titles were chosen from a longlist of 16, announced in November this year, following 123 submissions from across the Arab world. The titles are, in alphabetical order of author:


The Arch and the Butterfly
Published by Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre)

Mohammed Achaari
is a Moroccan poet born in 1951. He published his first poetry collection in 1978. He has written 10 books of poetry, a short story collection and a novel. He has worked in journalism and politics, which led him to take up various government posts, including that of Minister of Culture in Morocco.

The Arch and the Butterfly
Tackling the themes of Islamic extremism and terrorism from a new angle, The Arch and the Butterfly explores the effect of terrorism on family life. It tells the story of a left-wing father who one day receives a letter from Al-Qaeda informing him that his son, who he believes is studying in Paris, has died a martyr in Afghanistan. The novel looks at the impact of this shocking news on the life of its hero and consequently on his relationship with his wife.

The Doves’ Necklace
Published by Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre)

Raja Alem
is a Saudi novelist. She began publishing her work in the cultural supplement of Riyadh newspaper and began writing experimental plays for the theatre. She has won many prizes, the most recent of which was in 2005 – the Arabic Women’s Creative Writing Prize, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of UNESCO; and the Lebanese Literary Club Prize, in Paris, in 2008. Some
of her works have been translated into English and Spanish.

The Doves’ Necklace

The secret life of the holy city of Mecca is revealed in this astonishing story. The world painted by the heroine embraces everything from crime and religious extremism to the exploitation of foreign workers by a mafia of building contractors, who are destroying the historic areas of the city. This bleak scene is contrasted with the beauty of heroine’s love letters to her German boyfriend.

An Oriental Dance
Published by El-Ain Publishing

Khalid al-Bari
is an Egyptian writer born in 1972. He graduated from Cairo University with a degree in Medicine in 1997. He is the author of an autobiography entitled The World is More Beautiful than Heaven and a novel, Negative. He has lived and worked in London since 1999.

An Oriental Dance

An Oriental Dance
tells the story of a young Egyptian who, on marrying an older British woman, moves to England. Through his eyes, the reader is given a vivid account of the struggles and relationships of the Arab expatriate community living in the UK.

My Tormentor
Published by Dar El Shorouk

Bensalem Himmich
is a Moroccan novelist and scriptwriter with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Paris. His creative and academic works are available in both Arabic and French and some of his novels have been translated into several languages. He has won many prizes, notably the Naguib Mahfouz Medal (Cairo, 2002) and the UNESCO Sharjah Prize (Paris, 2003). He is the present Minister of Culture in Morocco. His novel, The Man from Andalucia, was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2009.

My Tormentor
In a gripping novel, whose narrative style is a blend of Kafka and One Thousand and One Nights, Himmich imagines an innocent man’s experience of extraordinary rendition in an American prison. During his captivity, the protagonist is subjected to interrogation and torture by both Arabs and foreigners and yet, against all odds, the author manages to find some hope in an otherwise desperate situation.

The Hunter of the Chrysalises (or The Head Hunter)
Published by Thaqafa l-al-Nashr (Cultural Publications)

Amir Taj al-Sir
is a Sudanese writer born in 1960. He studied medicine in Egypt and at the British Royal College of Medicine. He has published 14 books, including novels, biographies and poetry. His most important works are: The Dowry of Cries, The Copt’s Worries, The French Perfume and The Crawling of the Ants. Some of his works have been translated into French and three novels are currently being translated into French, English and Italian.

The Hunter of the Chrysalises (or The Head Hunter)
The Hunter of the Chrysalises
is the story of a former secret service agent who, having been forced to retire due to an accident, decides to write a novel about his experiences. He starts to visit a café frequented by intellectuals, only to find himself the subject of police scrutiny.

Brooklyn Heights
Published by Dar Merit

Miral al-Tahawy
is an Egyptian writer currently working as assistant professor of Arabic literature in the University of North Carolina. Her works include: The Tent, The Blue Aubergine, The Strumming of the Gazelles and academic essays. Her works have been translated into many foreign languages. Brooklyn Heights is her fourth novel.

Brooklyn Heights
tells the story of the New York’s Arab immigrants and those who live among them through the eyes of the female narrator. By contrasting her experiences in her chosen home, America, and her homeland Egypt, she reveals the problematic relationship between East and West. It is a story of fundamentalism and tolerance, loss and hope in love. Simple yet full of rich detail, the novel evokes the atmosphere of America over the last decade.


The panel of five judges are: Fadhil al-Azzawi (Chair), Iraqi poet and novelist living in Germany; Munira al-Fadhel, Bahraini academic, researcher and critic; Isabella Camera d’Afflitto, Italian academic, translator and critic; Amjad Nasser, Jordanian writer and journalist and Said Yaktine, Moroccan writer and critic.

Fadhil Al-Azzawi comments on the shortlist: “From the beginning the judging panel worked together in harmony and with a great degree of agreement. The fact that they reached near consensus on the longlist made choosing the shortlist easy. In the Judges’ opinion, the shortlist shows the high quality of the modern Arabic novel in its different forms.”


The Prize, now in its fourth year, is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation and funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy. It is the preeminent international prize for Arabic literary fiction, recognising the best of contemporary Arabic writing over the past year. It is widely reported and discussed throughout the Arab world and inevitably its decisions arouse debate and argument. The Judges select the longlist, shortlist and eventual winner solely on the basis of literary quality and without regard to nationality, region, religion, gender or age.

The shortlisted writers will each receive $10,000 US Dollars and the eventual winner, whose name will be announced on 14 March 2011 in Abu Dhabi, receives a further $50,000 US Dollars together with enhanced sales both in the Arab world and internationally. An English translation of the winning novel is guaranteed and, to date, the three winners of the Prize have been translated into English, in addition to a range of other languages. Many of the shortlisted writers are also translated.

The winner will be announced on the 14 March 2011


To download this in Arabic click here

To read the full press release in English click here

To read the sixteen longlisted titles click here


Notes to Editors

· Spokespeople for the Prize are available for comment. To arrange an interview, please contact: Katy MacMillan-Scott at Colman Getty on +44 7786567887 or

Published Date - 09/12/2010