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Shortlist Announced for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012

11 January 2012

Shortlist Announced for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012

www.arabicfiction.org

JABBOUR DOUAIHY, EZZEDINE CHOUKRI FISHERE, RABEE JABER, NASSER IRAQ, BACHIR MEFTI and HABIB SELMI are today, Wednesday 11 January, announced as the six shortlisted authors for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012. Their names were revealed at a press conference in Cairo, Egypt.

This year’s shortlist includes a number of different themes, ranging from exile and questions of personal identity to social and political upheaval, both historically and in the present time. Three of the authors have been shortlisted for the Prize before: Jabbour Douaihy (June Rain, 2008), Habib Selmi (The Scents of Marie-Claire, 2009) and Rabee Jaber (America, 2010), whilst Ezzedine Choukri Fishere was longlisted for the Prize in 2009 for Intensive Care.

The shortlist was announced by Georges Tarabichi, 2012 Chair of Judges, at a press conference at Cairo’s prestigious Dar al Opera. Until this point the 2012 Judges have remained anonymous but were today revealed as: Syrian writer and critic Georges Tarabichi (Chair); Lebanese journalist and literary critic, Maudie Bitar; Egyptian academic and women's rights activist Professor Hoda Elsadda; Qatari writer and academic Dr Huda al-Naimi and Spanish academic, translator and researcher Dr Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla.

The six shortlisted titles were chosen from a longlist of 13, announced in November 2011, selected from 101 submissions from 15 countries across the Arab world. They are, in alphabetical order:

Title

Author

Nationality

Publisher

The Vagrant

Jabbour Douaihy

Lebanon

Dar al-Nhar

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere

Egypt

Dar al-Ain

The Druze of Belgrade

Rabee Jaber

Lebanon

Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi

The Unemployed

Nasser Iraq

Egypt

Al-Dar al-Masriya al-Lubnaniya

Toy of Fire

Bachir Mefti

Algeria

Al-Ikhtilef

The Women of al-Bassatin

Habib Selmi

Tunisia

Dar al-Adab

Georges Tarabichi comments: “In these novels the authors’ show an innovative use of new styles to describe the social and historical variety of the Arab world, as well as giving premonitions of the current peoples’ movements, displayed by the concentration on corruption and tyranny formerly prevalent in the Arab world.”

2012 marks the fifth anniversary of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Since its inception, it has become a leading cultural event in the Arab world and is respected for its unwavering commitment to independence, transparency and integrity.

At the time of the 2012 longlist announcement, Georges Tarabichi commented that, in its fifth year, the Prize ‘takes place in exceptional circumstances, with many Arab uprisings against despotic regimes which have been entrenched in most regions of the Arab world for long decades’, with many of the titles submitted ‘paint(ing) a picture of the stifling conditions prevalent before the explosion of uprisings’. The Prize prides itself in recognising the very best of Arabic fiction and, unlike any other prize in the Middle East, has the ability to bring contemporary Arab voices to an international audience through translation, especially important at these times of great change in the Arab world.

Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Board of Trustees, comments: “The fifth anniversary of IPAF is an appropriate time to note, with great pride, how the prize, through translation, is enabling an international audience to share and enjoy Arabic fiction of the highest quality at an important moment in history.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of Arts & Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, adds: “The Emirates Foundation is proud to be the supporter of the Prize since its inception. In a short span of time the Prize has managed to garner regional and international acclaim and has become an inspiration to young Arab writers.”

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is awarded for prose fiction in Arabic and each of the six shortlisted finalists receives $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.  It was launched in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in April 2007, and is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation and funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 27 March 2012, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. An English translation of the winning novel is guaranteed for the winner. All five previous winners of the prize have secured English publishing deals for their novels.

For further information about the Prize, please visit www.arabicfiction.org or follow the prize on Facebook.

THE 2012 SHORTLIST

Jabbour Douaihy

Jabbour Douaihy was born in Zgharta, northern Lebanon, in 1949. He holds a PhD degree in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne and works as Professor of French Literature at the University of Lebanon. To date, he has published seven works of fiction, including novels, short stories and children’s books. His novel June Rain was shortlisted for the inaugural IPAF in 2008, and will be published in English by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing in October 2012.

The Vagrant

The Vagrant provides a realistic, engaging portrayal of the Lebanese civil war through the eyes of a young man who finds himself uprooted by the conflict. The hero represents the crisis of the Lebanese individual imposed upon by a sectarian reality. We follow his struggle to belong as he faces unfamiliar situations and conflicts in a society that considers him an outsider.

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere is an Egyptian writer and diplomat. Born in Kuwait in 1966, he grew up in Egypt, where he graduated from Cairo University in 1987 with a BA in Political Science. After graduating, he attended a number of universities in France and Canada and attained an International Diploma in Administration from The National School of Administration, Paris (1990-92). He went on to gain a Masters in International Relations from Ottawa University (1992-95) and a doctorate in Political Science from Montreal University (1993-98). He currently teaches political science at the American University in Cairo, but also lectures at a number of other universities. In addition, he writes political articles for several Arabic, English and French periodicals and newspapers.

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge is a novel about alienation in its various forms and senses: the hero who doesn’t belong; his second wife, torn between professional ambition and a desperation to give her husband the impression she belongs in his world; his son, with whom he has limited communication; his granddaughter, uncertain where she belongs, and his Egyptian friend, who discovers that neither his children nor his Cuban-American-Lebanese wife belong to his world. All these characters are linked by their relationship with the protagonist, who draws them together by inviting them to his granddaughter’s birthday party, at which he intends to convey some sad news.

Rabee Jaber

Lebanese novelist and journalist Rabee Jaber was born in Beirut in 1972. He has been editor of Afaq, the weekly cultural supplement of Al-Hayat newspaper, since 2001. His first novel, Master of Darkness, won the Critics’ Choice Prize in 1992. He has since written 16 novels, including: Black Tea; The Last House; Yousif Al-Inglizi; The Journey of the Granadan (published in German in 2005), Berytus: A City Beneath the Earth (published in French by Gallimard in 2009) and America, which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2010.

The Druze of Belgrade

After the 1860 civil war in Mount Lebanon, a number of fighters from the religious Druze community are forced into exile, travelling by sea to the fortress of Belgrade on the boundary of the Ottoman Empire.  In exchange for the freedom of a fellow fighter, they take with them a Christian man from Beirut called Hana Yaaqub; an unfortunate egg seller who happens to be sitting at the port. The Druze of Belgrade follows their adventures in the Balkans, as they struggle to stay alive.

Nasser Iraq

Nasser Iraq graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Cairo University, in 1984. He has worked in cultural journalism in Egypt and co-founded the Dubai Al-Thaqafiya magazine where he has been managing editor since 2004. He has published a number of books, including:  A History of Journalistic Art in Egypt (2002), which won the Ahmad Bahaa al-Din Prize in its first year; Times of the Dust (2006); From the Excess of Love (2008); The Green and the Damaged (2009) and The Unemployed (2011). He currently works as Cultural and Media Co-ordinator for the Foundation of Culture and Science Symposium in Dubai.  

The Unemployed 

The Unemployed tells the story of a young, educated Egyptian man from a middle-class family who, like so many others, is forced to look for work in Dubai due to the lack of opportunity in Cairo. In Dubai, he discovers an astonishing world filled with people of all nationalities and he experiences mixed treatment from his friends, relations and acquaintances. And then, just as he falls in love with an Egyptian girl, he finds himself imprisoned for the murder of a Russian prostitute…

Bachir Mefti

Bachir Mefti is a writer and journalist, born in 1969 in Algiers, Algeria. He has published a number of short story collections and novels, including: Archipelago of Flies (2000); Witness of the Darkness (2002); Perfumes of the Mirage (2005); Trees of the Resurrection (2007) and Maps of Nightly Passion (2009). Some of his works have been translated into French. He often writes articles in the Arabic press and works in Algerian television as assistant producer of the cultural programme Maqamat.

Toy of Fire

Toy of Fire is the story of a meeting between the novelist, Bashir Mufti, and a mysterious character called Rada Shawish, who presents Mufti with a manuscript containing his autobiography. Shawish’s goal in life has always been not to turn out like his father, who ran an underground cell in the seventies and committed suicide in the eighties. However, circumstances have driven him to follow in his father’s footsteps, resulting in him becoming a leading member of a secret group of his own.

Habib Selmi

Habib Selmi was born in al-’Ala, Tunisia, in 1951. He has published four novels and two collections of short stories. A number of his stories have been translated into English, Norwegian, Hebrew and French. His first novel, Jabal al-’Anz (Goat Mountain), was published in French in 1999. His novel Ushaq Bayya (Bayya's Lovers) was published in French in 2003 and excerpted in Banipal 18. Other novels include Surat Badawi Mayyit (Picture of a Dead Bedouin, 1990); Matahat al-Raml (Sand Labyrinth, 1994); Hufar Dafi’a (Warm Pits, 1999); Ushashaqq Baya (Bayya’s Lovers, 2001) and Asrar ‘Abdallah (Abdallah’s Secrets, 2004). Selmi has lived in Paris since 1985. His novel The Scents of Marie-Claire was shortlisted for IPAF in 2009. An English translation of the book was published by Arabia Books this year.

The Women of al-Bassatin 

The Women of Al-Bassatin is an intimate portrayal of the daily lives of a modest family living in the Al-Bassatin district of Tunis in Tunisia. Through the stories of this small matriarchal environment, we observe the contradictions of the wider Tunisian society, exposing a world in flux between burdensome religious traditions and a troubled modernity.

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