The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) announced on Wednesday the long-list of 16 novels in contention for the 2018 Prize. The novels selected were chosen from 124 entries from 14 countries, all published between July 2016 and June 2017 by a panel of five judges chaired by Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright Ibrahim Al Saafin.
This year's list witnessed the first appearance of: Shahad al-Rawi, Walid al-Shurafa, Ahmed Abdel Latif, Rasha Adly, Aziz Mohammed, Amjad Nasser, Dima Wannous and Hussein Yassin.
Some of the authors on the 2018 long-list is as follows: "Christina" for Atef Abu Saif (Palestine) published by Dar al-Ahlia, "The Last Country" for Antoine Douaihy (Lebanon) by Arab Scientific Publishers, "al-Najdi" for Taleb al-Refai (Kuwait) by That al-Salasil, "Leg Over Leg - in the Sighting of the Lovers' Crescent " for Amin Zaoui (Algeria) by al-Ikhtilef, "Flowers Consumed by Fire" for Amir Tag Elsir (Sudan) by Dar al-Saqi, "Heir of the Tombstones" for Walid al-Shurafa (Palestine) by Dar al-Ahlia, "The Earthen Fortress" for Ahmad Abdel Latif (Egypt) by Dar al-Ain, "The Black Peacock" for Hamid al-Nazir (Sudan) by Medad, and"Ali, the Story of an Honourable Man" for Hussein Yassin (Palestine) by Dar al-Ruaat
Of the 16 authors chosen, three have been shortlisted for the Prize previously – Atef Abu Saif (2015, A Suspended Life); Amir Tag Elsir (2011, The Grub Hunter); and Ibrahim Nasrallah (2009, Time of White Horses). Tag Elsir and Nasrallah have also been longlisted and served as mentors on the Prize’s Nadwa – an annual writing workshop for talented, emerging writers.
Five of this year’s writers have been long-listed before: Antoine Douaihy, Taleb al-Refai, Amin Zaoui, Fadi Azzam, and Hamed al-Nazir.
Saudi Arabian author Aziz Mohammed and Iraqi Shahad al-Rawi, are the two youngest authors long-listed with their debut novels. Rawi’s novel "Baghdad Clock" has already been translated into English and is due to be published by "Oneworld Publications" this year.
The 2018 judges includes, alongside Ibrahim al-Saafin, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet Inam Bioud, Slovenian writer and translator Barbara Skubic, Palestinian short story writer and novelist Mahmoud Shukair, and Sudanese-English writer and novelist Jamal Mahjoub .
Chair of Judges Ibrahim al-Saafin commented on the long-list saying that novels varied on the long-list between realistic, fantastical, historical and social, but all in their different ways tackling Arab reality and the challenges faced by Arab societies on political, cultural and human levels, as well as grappling with questions of identity.
"They bring to life the tragic distortions and dreams of these societies, delving deep into the past to throw light on current issues," added Saafin.
The shortlist will be announced in February and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony held in Abu Dhabi on April 24, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Each candidate of the six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 will be given to the winner.
Last year’s winner of the prize was "A Small Death" by Saudi author Mohammed Hasan Alwan.
The most prominent prize aims to promote the international reach of Arabic fiction as it provides funding for English translation for its winners.
This year, Hoopoe Fiction will publish in English winner of 2016 prize Rabai al-Madhoun’s "Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and al-Nakba", along with 2014 winner Ahmed Saadawi’s "Frankenstein in Baghdad" by Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US.
Other winners already available in English include Baha Taher’s "Sunset Oasis" in 2009 and Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel" in 2012. English translations of Abdo Khal’s "Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles" and Mohammed Achaari’s "The Arch and the Butterfly" were published in 2014. Saud Alsanousi’s "The Bamboo Stalk" was published in 2015 and Raja Alem’s novel, "The Dove’s Necklace" in 2016.