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The International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces Shortlist

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The International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces Shortlist
written by
Mariam Nowar

(Image credit: Arageek and Goodreads)

The shortlist for the 13thInternational Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) was announced on Tuesday, and Egyptian writer, Youssef Ziedan, is among the list. The six candidates will each receive $10,000, while the winner will receive an additional $50,000. The winning novel will be announced on the 14th of April by the judging panel during a press conference at the Water Museum in Marrakesh, Morocco. Selected from 128 entries, the 16 nominees for the IPAF came from nine countries, while the shortlist includes five males and one female authors from five countries.

“The novels we have chosen include a superior collection of texts varied in style and subject matter. They have escaped the grip of traditionalism, which often accompanies the writing of fiction. Nearly all of them are occupied with the oppressive effect of history, past, and present, but they do not merely retell history or current reality. Rather, they confront it with all its harshness to inspire in the reader questions about the destiny of the Arabic individual,” said Chair of the Judging Panel, Muhsin al-Musawi. Here’s the list of the selected authors:

Youssef Zeidan previously won the prize in 2009 for his novel, Azazeel. This year he is nominated for his book, Fardeqan – E’teqal Al Sheikh Al Ra’ees (Fardeqan – The Detention of the Great Sheikh), which depicts the life of “The Great Sheikh” named Avicenna from his birthplace near the Uzbek city of Bukhara, until his death in Persia. Faredeqan is the name of the fortress where Avicenna was detained and wrote his philosophical work.

Jabbour Douaihy was born in Zgharta, northern Lebanon, and he was shortlisted for the inaugural IPAF in 2008 with Mattar Hazeeran (June Rain), in 2012 with Shareed El Manazel (The Vagrant), and longlisted in 2015 with Bab Al Tebbeneh (The American Quarter). This year, he is nominated for Malek El Hend (The King of India), which follows the mysterious murder of Zakaria Mubarak upon his return from a long exile. Suspicion falls on his cousins, who may have killed him to retrieve a treasure buried underneath the house that their grandmother had built.

Abdelouahab Aissaoui was born in Djelfa, Algeria, and he is nominated for his novel, Al Diwan Al Esparty (The Spartan Court). The story follows five characters in Algiers from 1815 to 1833, whose lives are interconnected in the midst of a political battle.

Khalil Alrez is a Syrian author, nominated for his novel, El Hay El Rousy (The Russian Quarter). The book tells the story of a neighbourhood dragged into war. Among the characters is a former journalist named Victor Ivanitch, who manages the Russian quarter’s zoo, along with a little-known Russian writer named Arkady Kuzmitch.

Said Khatibi is an Algerian novelist, who studied in Algeria and France. He is nominated for his novel, Hatab Sarayvo (Firewood of Sarajevo), which compares the destinies of two countries that have both become embroiled in futile civil wars.

As for the only female nominee, Iraqi writer, Alia Mamdouh is nominated for her novel, El Tanky (The Tank). The book explores the relationship between human beings and places that have been taken away from them. The writer imagines her return to Iraq after four decades of exile, and she shares the upheavals which have shaken her homeland with her characters.