Longlist

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has today (Tuesday 7 January) announced the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2014 prize. Those selected were chosen from 156 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months.

The 2014 longlisted authors come from 9 different countries, with the highest numbers from Morocco, Iraq and Egypt. A Kuwaiti writer makes the list for the second time in 2014, following Saud Alsanousi’s success in 2013.

Five of the authors have been previously nominated for the prize; Amir Tag Elsir was shortlisted in 2011 (The Grub Hunter), Inaam Kachachi (The American Granddaughter) in 2009 and Khaled Khalifa (In Praise of Hatred) in 2008, whilst Ibrahim Nasrallah has been shortlisted (2009 – Time of White Horses) and longlisted (2013 - Lanterns of the King of Galilee). Waciny Laredj has been longlisted twice, in 2011 and 2013 (The Andalucian House and Lolita’s Fingers respectively). Many of these writers have subsequently had their work published in English, as well as other languages.

Ahmed Saadawi also has connections to the prize, having taken part in the IPAF nadwa in 2012, under the tutelage of Inaam Kachachi and Amir Tag Elsir.

The full 2014 longlist, with author names in alphabetical order, is as follows:

 

Title

Author

Nationality

Publisher

Clouds Over Alexandria

Ibrahim Abdelmeguid

Egyptian

Dar al-Shorouq

Love Stories on al-Asha Street

Badryah El-Bishr

Saudi Arabian

Dar al-Saqi

The Bearer of the Purple Rose

Antoine Douaihy

Lebanese

Arab Scientific Publishers

366

Amir Tag Elsir

Sudanese

Arab Scientific Publishers

A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me

Youssef Fadel

Moroccan

Dar al-Adab

The Season of Pike Fishing

Ismail Ghazali

Moroccan

Dar al-Ain

The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend

Ismail Fahd Ismail

Kuwaiti

Arab Scientific Publishers

Tashari

Inaam Kachachi

Iraqi

Dar al-Jadid

No Knives in this City's Kitchens

Khaled Khalifa

Syrian

Dar al-Ain

God’s Land of Exile

Ashraf al-Khamaisi

Egyptian

Al-Hadara

Ashes of the East: The Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness

Waciny Laredj

Algerian

Al-Jamal

The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya

Abdelrahim Lahbibi

Moroccan

Africa East

The Blue Elephant

Ahmed Mourad

Egyptian

Dar al-Shorouq

The Edge of the Abyss

Ibrahim Nasrallah

Jordanian -Palestinian

Arab Scientific Publishers

The Sad Night of Ali Baba

Abdel Khaliq al-Rikabi

Iraqi

The Arab Institute for Research and Publishing

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

Iraqi

Al-Jamal

 

The books were selected by a panel of five judges, whose names will be announced in Amman, Jordan, on Monday 10 February 2014, at the same time as the 2014 shortlist.

The 2014 Chair of Judges comments on the longlist: ‘The longlisted titles are extremely varied, their diverse themes and styles reflecting the unquestionable richness of Arabic literature. Dominant themes include the socio-political problems currently experienced in many parts of the Arab world, especially the violence and displacement inflicted upon religious and ethnic minorities. Techniques and voices within the books range from the traditional narration characterised by an omniscient author to innovative techniques in style and narration, all of which breathes fresh life into the Arabic novel.’

This is the seventh year of the Prize, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, comments: ‘Seven years on, IPAF has gone from strength to strength. This year’s longlist contains a set of excellent works of fiction that testify to the quality of Arabic literature. The judges have toiled long and hard to produce this list which includes female and male novelists, young and more established writers and works that hail from different parts of the Arab world. It is enormously gratifying to witness the role IPAF has played in promoting Arabic fiction among Arab readers and international audiences through translation.

Delivering on its aim to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize has guaranteed English translations for all of its winners: Bahaa Taher (2008), Youssef Ziedan (2009), Abdo Khal (2010), joint winners Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem (2011), Rabee Jaber (2012) and Saud Alsanousi (2013). Taher’s Sunset Oasis was translated into English by Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) in 2009 and has gone on to be translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Ziedan’s Azazeel was published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012 and English translations of Abdo Khal and Mohammed Achaari’s winning novels are due in Spring 2014, through Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. 2013 also saw the publication of Spanish translations of Baha Taher's Sunset Oasis (El Oasis) and Rabee Jaber's The Druze of Belgrade (Los Drusos de Belgrado) by Madrid-based publisher Turner.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2014 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 29 April, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.

 

 

 

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

Hadi al-Attag lives in the populous al-Bataween district of Baghdad. In the Spring of 2005, he takes the body parts of those killed in explosions and sews them together to create a new body. When a displaced soul enters the body, a new being comes to life. Hadi call it ‘the-what's-its-name’; the authorities name it ‘Criminal X’ and others refer to it as ‘Frankenstein’. Frankenstein begins a campaign of revenge against those who killed it, or killed the parts constituting its body. As well as following Frankenstein’s story, Frankenstein in Baghdad follows a number of connected characters, such as General Surur Majid of the Department of Investigation, who is responsible for pursuing the mysterious criminal and Mahmoud al-Sawadi, a young journalist who gets the chance to interview Frankenstein. Frankenstein in Baghdad offers a panoramic view of a city where people live in fear of the unknown, unable to act in solidarity, haunted by the unknown identity of the criminal who targets them all. 

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Clouds Over Alexandria

Ibrahim Abdelmeguid

In Clouds over Alexandria, Ibrahim Abdelmeguid completes his trilogy about Alexandria, begun with No-one Sleeps in Alexandria and Birds of Amber. In these three novels - which can be read as a sequence or individually - he describes life in the famous city, beginning in an era of openness to the wider world and ending at a time of closure to outside influences. The events of the novel take place in the 1970s, when the cosmopolitan spirit which has characterised the city throughout history has disappeared. In place of the melting pot of ethnicities, religions and cultures comes intolerance and hatred, destroying Alexandria’s secular traditions. The city occupies a large portion of the imaginary space of the novel, in which the characters play out their parts to reveal the social and religious crisis of a city now bereft of its free spirit.

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Love Stories on al-Asha Street

Badryah El-Bishr

The events in Love Stories on al-Asha Street take place in the 1970s, on al-Asha Street in the populous district of Manfouha, Riyadh. Three heroines are searching for their freedom: Aziza hopes to find it through love and imitates Soad Hosny, the Cinderella of Arabic cinema, falling in love with an Egyptian doctor because he speaks the dialect of black and white films. Wadha, a bedouin woman, flees from poverty through work in the women's market, becoming its most important trader. Atwa literally runs away from her tiny village, changing her name and fate, and finds independence in the new environment of Riyadh. Their story begins in the romantic period of black and white films and lovers' trysts on the rooftops, where people sleep outside. However, with the advent of colour television comes a wave of religious extremism, opposing the social transformations which have changed the city. One of its first victims is Aziza's young neighbour, Saad. Searching for his identity, he joins the radicals led by religious activist Juhayman al-Otaybi, who famously occupied Mecca’s sacred Grand Mosque in 1979.  

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The Bearer of the Purple Rose

Antoine Douaihy

The Bearer of the Purple Rose tells the story of a writer's arrest and imprisonment in ‘The Citadel of the Port’, a 700-year old Mamluk fortress built to guard the coast. The arrest of the writer, back from a long exile in the West, is a conundrum for all his friends, who see him as a quiet, peace-loving man. He is imprisoned in a bare cell, possessing only two high windows, impossible to reach, and a picture of the tyrant, who stares at him day and night. Perhaps his arrest confirms what his mother used to tell him: ‘Don't fear anything. What a man fears will happen to him.’ Painfully aware of his loss of freedom, he dwells on many things, including: memories from his time of exile; journeying between two worlds; old love and new love; his mother; the destruction of nature; the tragic nature of history; the strange coincidences of fate, and the courses taken by time and death.

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A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me

Youssef Fadel

Aziz is a pilot at the air force base who loves flying and forgets his cares when he is up in the air. It is flying that he thinks of on his wedding night, rather his 16 year-old bride, Zina, waiting in the adjoining room. The following morning, he leaves his house at the crack of dawn, not to return for 18 years. His wife, Zina, looks for him everywhere - in prisons, offices, cities and forests – asking questions and following false leads, only to be disappointed. However, one day – in the bar where she and her sister Khatima work – a stranger presses a scrap of paper into her pocket. It takes her on one last journey in search of her husband: to the Kasbah of al-Glaoui in southern Morocco, where Aziz crouches in a prison cell, having lost hope of ever being found. A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me is a fictional testament to the terrible period of Moroccan history known as 'the years of cinders and lead'.  

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The Season of Pike Fishing

Ismail Ghazali

A French saxophonist is invited by a Moroccan friend to visit the Aglmam Azgza lake in the Middle Atlas mountains, to try pike fishing. Once there, he finds himself dragged into a confusing maze, at the heart of which is the legendary place itself and the savage pike. He encounters many colourful and dubious characters including: Virginia from London; a blonde fisherman nicknamed 'pike-tamer' and a young hotel employee, who is investigating the tragic fates of those who have visited the lake since 1910. There is also a young girl at the lake, a scriptwriter, two actresses called Hagar and Sara, a piano player and so on... The Season of Pike Fishing is a novel within a novel and many separate narratives find a place within its structure.

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The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend

Ismail Fahd Ismail

The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend is the life story of Mansi Ibn Abihi (literally: ‘Forgotten One, Son of his Father’), who comes from a class of Kuwaitis called the bedun (‘without’) because they lack Kuwaiti citizenship. Released from prison after the liberation of Kuwait, he decides to write his life story, addressing it to the daughter he has never seen, Zeinab – who was born whilst Kuwait was under occupation - in the hope that she will get to know her father. Mansi recalls his sufferings as a bedun and tells his daughter of his family: of his mother, who preserves the family’s documents in the hope they can apply for citizenship and of his marriage to Ohood, a Kuwaiti, whose brother Saud refuses to accept the union of a bedun and a Kuwaiti. He writes about his life as a self-made young man and the invasion of Kuwait, when he was forced to join the Iraqi ‘people's army’, but managed to escape and join the Kuwaiti resistance. Finally he writes of his imprisonment following liberation, and his subsequent release.

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Gods Places of Exile

God's Land of Exile

Ashraf al-Khamaisi

God’s Land of Exile is set in 'al-Wa'ara', an imaginary oasis in the Egyptian desert of al-Wadi al-Jadid. The main character, Hajizi, is over 100 years old and has spent most of his life working with his father Shadid, embalming the corpses of animals. Disturbed by how the speed with which the living forget the dead, he longs for immortality and fears his own death and burial. When he hears from a passing monk that Christ rose from the dead and that righteous Christians rise from death, he decides to accompany the monk to join his brethren in the mountains. There he meets Christ, who tells him to wait for ‘The Comforter’ who will advise him how to achieve life after death. He returns home to the oasis and waits for instruction. When two of his close friends have died, he has a vision of his own, imminent death and, having not heard from The Comforter, contrives a plan to avoid burial. It is in his last moments that the Comforter arrives and shows him what he must do.

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The Journeys of Abdi

The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya

Abdelrahim Lahbibi

A researcher stumbles across a manuscript and attempts to edit it, to make it into a doctoral thesis. Entitled The Journeys of 'Abdi, the manuscript is an account of one man’s journeys from Morocco to the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia in search of knowledge, written in the manner of Moroccan intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun. ’Abdi’s journey turns into an examination of Arabic and Muslim society, with ’Abdi emphasising the need for Arabs to learn from Europe in order to achieve social progress. Split into two, The Journeys of  'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya follows both ’Abdi’s search for knowledge as well as the narrator’s attempts to edit his manuscript.

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The Blue Elephant

Ahmed Mourad

After five years of self-imposed isolation, Doctor Yahya returns to work at the Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital in Cairo, where there is a surprise in store for him. In ‘West 8’, the department in charge of determining the mental health of patients who have committed crimes, he meets an old friend who reminds him of a past he is desperately trying to forget. Suddenly finding his friend's fate in his hands, Yahya's life is turned upside down, with one shocking turn of events following another. What begins as an attempt to find out the true mental condition of his friend becomes an enthralling journey to discover himself, or what is left of him.

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The Sad Night of Ali Baba

The Sad Night of Ali Baba

Abdel Khaliq al-Rikabi

In The Sad Night of Ali Baba, Iraqi writer Abdel Khaliq Al Rikabi continues his imaginative retelling of the history of modern Iraq. Using the American occupation in 2003 as a starting point, he looks back at the defining social and historical events which have taken place in the country during the 20th century, from the Ottoman Empire to the British and American occupations. Focusing on the American occupation, he explores the different ways in which people have been affected; from those who have suffered random violence to those who have exploited occupation for their own benefit. He explores the explosion of repressed religious, racial and sectarian tensions in Iraq as a result of occupation, and the subsequent hatred, intolerance and desire for revenge. 

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No Knives

No Knives in this City's Kitchens

Khaled Khalifa

No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a profound exploration of the mechanics of fear and disintegration over half a century. Through the story of one Syrian family, it depicts a society living under tyranny with stifled aspirations. The family realise that all their dreams have died and turned into rubble, just as the corpse of their mother has become waste material they must dispose of in order to continue living. Written with shocking perception and exquisite language, from the very beginning this novel makes its readers ask fundamental questions and shows how regimes can destroy Arab societies, plundering lives and wrecking dreams. Khaled Khalifa writes about everything which is taboo in Arab life, with a particular focus on Syria. No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a novel about grief, fear and the death of humanity.  

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366

Amir Tag Elsir

366 is the love letter of one man to a woman who doesn’t even know he exists. The protagonist falls in love with Asmaa the moment he sees her at a relative’s wedding. Captivated, he begins a quest to find her, searching everywhere from wedding photographs to the street, the neighbourhood and the faces of other women. He even looks for her in horoscopes, in love stories and in his own vivid imagination. In his letter, he lays out details of his life – from the job that he gives up in order to search for her – to his entanglement in certain political issues. When he fails to find her, he even announces his symbolic death, signing his letter as ‘the deceased’, as a preliminary step before completing suicide.

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Tashari

Tashari

Inaam Kachachi

Tashari deals with the tragedy of Iraqi displacement of the past few decades, through the life story of a female doctor working in the countryside in southern Iraq in the 1950s. The narrative also follows her three children, who now live in three different continents, particularly her eldest daughter who has also become a doctor and works in a remote region of Canada. The title of the novel, ‘Tashari’, is an Iraqi word referring to a shot from a hunting rifle which is scattered in several directions. Iraqis use it as a symbol of loss and being dispersed across the globe. As a way of combating the dispersal of his own family, one of the characters, Alexander, constructs a virtual graveyard online, where he buries the family dead and allots to each person scattered across the globe his/her own personal plot. 

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Ashes of the East: the Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness

Waciny Laredj

Ashes of the East: The Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness sees Jazz, a young musician of Arabic origin, exploring his identity through a symphony he is composing. The different elements of the music reflect the harsh reality of his life in America, where he is regarded as a hostile Muslim Arab, as well as stories from the life of his grandfather, Baba Sheriff. Going through key moments of his family history, he reconstructs an unadorned picture of the beginning of the twentieth century: such as Baba Sheriff being carried on his mother's back, or the death of Baba Sheriff’s father, who was incarcerated in Lebanon’s Aliah prison before being strung up on the gallows in Beirut by order of the Ottoman ruler Jamal Pasha, nicknamed ‘the Manslayer’. Jazz goes back to a time shaped by the pursuit of European, rather than Arab, interests, touching on the influence of well-known historical figures: from Yusuf Al-Azmeh, who resisted the French in Syria, to the escapades of Lawrence of Arabia, Prince Faisal and Viscount Allenby. It is through his symphony, Ashes of the East - which he performs at the Brooklyn Opera - that Jazz finds release and brings to life a grandfather who was nothing short of a walking history book.  

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The Edge of the Abyss

Ibrahim Nasrallah

The events in The Edge of the Abyss are told through the voices of three characters whose lives are intertwined: a former minister, known for his corrupt practices; his lawyer wife, restricted by her association with him and a professor, whose personal interests dictate that he should serve the minister, but who at the same time seeks to fulfil his dreams of love through romantic adventures and becomes entangled with the minister's wife. Their stories intersect with the changes following the Arab Spring, which is drawing everyone to the edge of the abyss. The Edge of the Abyss depicts an Arab reality where legitimate and illegitimate ambitions are merged, as are the suffering of the individual and that of the community.

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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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Translations

    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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