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On Tuesday, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) announced the novels nominated in its list for the award for 2020. Picked from a total of 128 entries, the list included 16 authors from nine countries, who published their work between July 2018 and June 2019. Apart from the prize, the winner will also receive $50,000, along with funding for translating their winning novel into English. From Egypt, two esteemed authors are nominated; Rasha Adly, and Youssef Zeidan.
Adly is nominated for her book, Akher Ayam El Basha (The Last Days of the Pasha), which follows the journey of a man named Hassan Al Barbari as he delivers a gift from Mohammed Ali Pasha to the King of France. Another protagonist is a historian, who exhumes the body of the Pasha after his passing to uncover the truth behind a possible conspiracy. She was also longlisted in 2017 for her novel, Shaghaf (Passion).
Zeidan 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 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. Zeidan previously won the prize in 2009 for his novel, Azazeel.
The other two female nominees for the prize are Libyan author, Aisha Ibrahim for Harb El Ghazala (The War of the Gazelle), and Iraqi author, Alia Mamdouh for El Tanky (The Tank). Among the longlist is Saudi Arabian author, Magbool Al-Alawi, who is nominated for Safar Berlik (Seferberlik), as well as Syrian author, Salim Barakat for Maza ‘An Al Sayeda Al Yahodeya Raheel? (What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady?).
The panel for this year includes five judges; Egyptian broadcaster, Reem Magued; Russian researcher, Viktoria Zarytovskaya; along with Algerian novelist, Amin Zaoui, and Lebanese critic, Pierre Abi Saab. The judging panel is chaired by the Iraqi Professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature, Muhsin al-Musawi.
Lebanese writer, Hoda Barakat won last year’s prize for her book Bareed El Leil (The Night Mail), which recounts the stories of letter writers. These letters are lost, but they are, one way or another, connected.