DUBAI: It’s a noteworthy coincidence that the 16-strong longlist of books vying for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) have been announced in conjunction with Arabic Language Day.
The novels, which were handpicked by an expert panel of five judges chaired by Muhsin al-Musawi, an Iraqi literary critic and professor at Columbia University, hail from nine different countries within the Middle East and North Africa.
The 16 novels in contention for the 13th edition of the prize include 13 male and three female authors and were all published in the Arabic language between July 2018 and June 2019. Each of the selected novels address a number of issues affecting the Arab world and shed light on the history of the Arab region.
Among the nations represented is Saudi Arabia. Novelist Magbool Al-Alawi is longlisted for “Seferberlik,” a novel that revolves around a man who falls captive of the Ottoman soldiers. The main character, who initially traded slaves, now has his freedom taken away.
Memorably, Al-Alawi's first novel “Turmoil in Jeddah” was longlisted for the 2011 Arabic Booker Prize.
Meanwhile, leading the pack with the largest number of longlisted works is Syria with four authors, including Khalil Alrez who is nominated for the annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic for “The Russian Quarter.”
The novel tells the story of a neighborhood, which for many years resisted being dragged into war, but is finally compelled to get involved. However, it enters the war with stories rather than weapons.
The Levant nation is followed by Algeria, which boasts three longlisted books from authors Samir Kacimi, Said Khatibi and Bachir Mefti.
Other countries represented include Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.
Representing Lebanon is Zhorta-born writer Jabbour Douaihy with “The King of India.” Despite the book’s title, the story is not about a king or India. The Lebanese author’s novel is a detective story set on the background of family and sectarian feuds.
Six novels will be shortlisted at a press conference in Morocco on Feb. 4 2020, with the winner of the 13th IPAF award being announced at a ceremony in the UAE capital on Apr. 14, 2020, ahead of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
In addition to the $50,000 prize money, the award also provides funding for an English translation for its winners.
See the full list below.
“The Last Days of the Pasha” by Rasha Adly (Egypt)
“The Spartan Court” by Abdelouahab Aissaoui (Algeria)
“Seferberlik” by Magbool Al-Alawi (Saudi Arabia)
‘The Russian Quarter” by Khalil Alrez (Syria)
“Al-Mutanabbi’s Rabat” by Hassan Aourid (Morocco)
“What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady?” by Salim Barakat (Syria)
“The King of India” by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)
“The Golden Hamam” by Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab (Tunisia)
“The War of the Gazelle” by Aisha Ibrahim (Libya)
“Sleeping in the Cherry Field” by Azhar Jerjis (Iraq)
“The Stairs of Trolar” by Samir Kacimi (Algeria)
“No-one Prayed Over Their Graves” by Khaled Khalifa (Syria)
“Firewood of Sarajevo” by Said Khatibi (Algeria)
“The Tank” by Alia Mamdouh (Iraq)
“The Mingling of the Seasons” by Bachir Mefti (Algeria)
“Fardeqan – the Detention of the Great Sheikh” by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)