The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed the longlist of 16 novels now a step closer to winning the 2015 prize. Those selected were chosen from 180 entries from 15 countries, all published within the last 12 months.

The 2015 longlisted authors come from nine different countries, with the highest numbers from Lebanon and Egypt, with three authors apiece.

The full 2015 longlist is as follows:

Floor 99

Jana ElHassan

Floor 99 unfolds between the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon and life in the city of New York in 2000. Majd is a young Palestinian man who bears a scar from the massacre. In present day New York, he falls in love with Hilda, a dancer, whose wealthy family from Mount Lebanon thrived on the power of the Christian right wing during the Lebanese civil war - who were directly linked to the massacre at Sabra and Shatila.

When Hilda decides to return to her village on Mount Lebanon to discover her roots, Majd is torn between mental images of the old enemy and his fear of losing her. He is forced to reflect on the painful events which took the life of his pregnant mother and turned his father, a teacher, into a rose-seller on the streets of Harlem. From his office on the 99th floor of a New York building, Majd's Palestinian identity seems ambiguous, especially given that he was born and has always lived in exile. The novel reflects on the power of love to cleanse hatred and brings the post-war Lebanese generation face-to-face with their ancestors. 

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Drowning in Lake Morez

Antoine Douaihy

Drowning in Lake Morez is the story of a couple separated by culture and place. Whenthe narrator, a Lebanese man, falls in love with a French woman, they begin a passionate affair. However their relationship, punctuated by separation, is fraught with difficulties and they struggle to make it work even when they are together. Looking at the larger issue of displacement, the book explores how – in our transitory, modern lifestyle - people often feel caught between different worlds. 

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Sharp Turning

Ashraf al-Khamaisi

Sharp Turning explores questions of life, death, and faith, in a story about a group of passengers who are mysteriously brought together to travel on a speeding minibus. One of the passengers is the prophet Sonallah, a man who has been roaming the planet for thousands of years trying to spread his message. As the group hurtles along the highway towards an almost certain death, Sonallah tries to convince them of his truth – that humanity should strive for immortality in order to rightly represent God.  

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A Suspended Life

Atef Abu Saif

A Suspended Life is set in the Gaza refugee camp. Naim runs the only print shop in the camp, where he prints posters of martyred members of the community. When he is shot and killed by the Army, the fallout from his death changes the lives of the community living a quiet life on the fringes of the camp, where Naim’s house sits on a small hill. The place has historical significance for the residents and, when the government plans to build a police station and mosque on the spot where Naim’s house stands, it leads to a clash between the residents and the police.

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Far from Clamour, Close to Silence

Mohammed Berrada

Looking back over the 50 years that have passed since Moroccan independence, four characters from different generations review their lives. Far from Clamour, Close to Silence’s young hero, Raji, is unemployed, until a historian asks him to canvass people’s views about Morocco's future. Raji is inspired to write a novel about three different people who, coming from different generations, represent the hopes, ideals and disappointments of three different eras in Moroccan history: pre-independence, post-independence and contemporary Morocco. And so he tells the story of Tawfiq al-Sadiqi, born in 1930s, a lawyer called Falih al-Hamzawi and a psychiatrist, Nabiha Sama'an, born in the 1950s.

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Diamonds and Women

Lina Hawyan Elhassan

Diamonds and Womendescribes two generations of Arab exiles, revealing the secret, privileged world of Arab emigrants and showing their influence on their chosen cities of Paris, Sao Paolo and Damascus. The novel focuses particularly on Syrians living in Paris and Sao Paolo from the beginning of the 20th century to the 1970s and 1980s and the experiences of the heroine, Almaz, as she witnesses key points of Arab social and political history in the modern era.

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Don't Tell Your Nightmare!

Abdel Wahab al-Hamadi

Don't Tell Your Nightmare! takes place in Kuwait and gives a glimpse of the shadowy sectarianism and racism of Kuwaiti society just before the Arab Spring. It also reveals the illegal torture happening behind the scenes in detention camps.

Bassam, a young man from a respectable family, is disturbed by nightmares of a man begging for help because someone is trying to kill him. Whilst picking apart the meaning of his dream, the story also picks apart Bassam's relationships: with a lover who disappeared, to his relationship with his best friend, and with the Sheikh who interprets dreams. The more progress he makes in his attempts to find the girl or interpret the dream, the more unclear things become. Events come to a head when he is struck down by a fever and then wakes to find a message on his phone from the vanished lover, asking him to join her in Beirut.

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Riyam and Kafa

Hadia Hussein

In Riyam and Kafa, an Iraqi seamstress decides to write a novel based on her diaries, giving us an intimate look at the reality of life for women living in Iraq; a world in which they struggle to make their mark while being restricted by values and traditions. The novel, a rich and detailed portrait of the heroine and her family, ultimately deals with the wider dimension of human suffering and the conflict between good and evil. 

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Hisham al-Khashin

Graphite takes place in Egypt during the 1920s, a tumultuous time which saw the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood and the birth of the Egyptian women’s movement. The story focuses on Nawal, an artist struggling to be free within an oppressive, and increasingly reactionary, society. Her life changes when she meets Doria Shafik, a historical figure known for being one of the leaders of the women's liberation movement. Despite initial jealousies, the two begin a powerful friendship, and Nawal soon finds herself swept up in the larger struggle for women’s rights. 

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The Italian

Shukri Mabkhout

At the heart of The Italian is Abdel Nasser (nicknamed 'the Italian') and his mysterious assault on the Imam, his neighbour, during his father’s funeral procession. The book’s narrator attempts to uncover the motivations behind the attack, re-constructing his friend Abdel Nasser’s troubled history from childhood. It looks at Abdel Nasser’s time as a left-wing student at the University of Tunis, during the final years of the Bourguiba era and the beginning of Ben Ali's, through to the period of radical changes that subsequently rocked Tunisian society, when the dreams of a generation were torn apart by the fierce struggle between the Islamists and the Left. The novel reveals the mechanisms of control and censorship exercised through the press as well as the fragility of human beings, their secret histories and buried wounds.  

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The Daughter of Suslov

Habib Abdulrab Sarori

The Daughter of Suslov takes place in the seaport city of Aden, Yemen, spanning from the 1960s until the 21st century. As a young man, the narrator finds himself attracted to the daughter of a high-ranking official in the ruling Marxist party. Years later, he meets her again – only to find that she is now a niqab-wearing Salafist, calling on people to join the Islamist Salafi movement. The novel explores contemporary Yemeni reality against the backdrop of Aden’s history, from the independence of southern Yemen and the subsequent establishment of The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, to the Unification of Yemen in 1990 and the Arab Spring.

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The Size of a Grape

Muna al-Sheemi

The Size of a Grape unfolds during Ramadan in 2012 when, at the International Medical Centre in Cairo, 15-year-old Ziyad is found to have a brain tumour 'the size of a grape’. Ziyad’s treatment coincides with the arrival of the former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who has been transferred to the centre under the order of his judge.

Ziyad’s mother is shaken by her son’s illness and it prompts her to review her life and her relationships, only to find they were not as they should have been. The novel describes the state of oppressed women in a patriarchal society, who still possess the strength to confront both themselves and others in order to recover their sense of self-worth and dignity.   

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The Longing of the Dervish

Hammour Ziada

Set in 19th century Sudan during the collapse of the theocratic state, The Longing of the Dervish follows the story of Bakhi Mindeel, a former slave newly released from prison and seeking revenge for his imprisonment. His release coincides with the end of the Mahdist war – a British colonial war fought between Egypt and a section of Sudanese society seeking independence under their religious leader, Mahdi – when Mahdi and his followers are defeated and force to flee. The Longing of the Dervish examines the social conflict between white Christian and Islamic Sufi cultures in Sudan, exploring the concepts of love, religion, betrayal and political struggle.

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Willow Alley

Ahmed el-Madini

Willow Alley tells the story of a bustling, ancient Moroccan town which hides many secrets, where residents struggle to live in peace while at the mercy of a few arrogant and despotic individuals. Focusing on the struggle between the caretaker of a building under construction and a group of people clinging to their land in order to survive, the novel examines the individual’s right to exist in a country where lives are vulnerable to exploitation and the powerful thrive at the expense of the weak. 

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The American Neighbourhood

Jabbour Douaihy

The American Neighbourhood is a novel about a troubled city during an explosive period of history. It describes two contradictory worlds existing side-by-side within a single Lebanese city, Tripoli. The first: the poor, sprawling so-called American district of Bab al-Tebbeneh, from which many jihadis are recruited and sent to Iraq to fight the Americans. The second: the rich and powerful Al Azzam family’s splendid home in an elite district.

Intisar, who comes from the American district, works for the Al Azzams and has a good relationship with her employers, suggesting that the two worlds can exist peacefully side-by-side. However, she becomes terrified when her son Ismail disappears and it transpires that he has been recruited for a suicide mission in Iraq. Although he abandons his mission at the last minute, Ismail finds himself trapped on return to the city and he finds himself turning to the Al Azzam family for protection. 

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Female Voices

Maha Hassan

Female Voices is a metafictional novel told through two intertwining stories: the first is the inner monologue of an author writing a novel; the second is the story of the characters she is creating. As both narratives unfold, imagination and reality merge, showing how writing can both liberate and reveal. 

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Previous Years

You can find a complete history of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction here. Information on all the winners, shortlisted and longlisted...

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    One of the main aims of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is to encourage the translation of Arabic literature into...

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