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The Arch and the Butterfly and The Doves' Necklace announced as joint winners of International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011

14 March 2011

  • Moroccan author, Mohammed Achaari, and Saudi Arabian author, Raja Alem, share prestigious Arab fiction prize
  • Prize shared between two winners for the first time
  • First woman winner 

The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem are today, Monday 14 March, announced as joint winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011. This is the first time the Prize has been split between two novelists.

The winners were announced by this year’s Chair of Judges, the celebrated Iraqi poet and novelist Fadhil Al-Azzawi, at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

Fadhil Al-Azzawi comments: “The Judging Panel decided to give the Prize equally to two novels, which are The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem. They are two wonderful novels with great literary quality and they both deal with important and realistic problems in the Middle East, problems which have been reflected on banners during the recent protests that have shaken the Arab world, demanding change.

“The first novel, The Arch and the Butterfly, deals with Islamic extremism and terrorism and its destructive effect upon Arabic society itself, rather than on the West. The second, The Dove’s Necklace, reveals the true face of Mecca: behind the city’s holy veil there is another Mecca, where many crimes are committed and there is also corruption, prostitution and mafias of building contractors who are destroying the historic areas of the city, and therefore its soul, for commercial gain.”

This year’s winners were chosen from a shortlist of six titles, which was announced in Doha, Qatar, in December 2010 by Al-Azzawi and the four other Arabic literature specialists on the 2011 Judging Panel: Bahraini academic, researcher and critic Munira al-Fadhel; Italian academic, translator and critic Isabella Camera d’Afflitto; Jordanian writer and journalist Amjad Nasser, and Moroccan writer and critic Said Yaktine. The winner, shortlist and longlist of 16 titles were selected solely on the basis of literary quality and without regard to nationality, region, religion, gender or age.

During today’s awards ceremony, each of the shortlisted finalists was congratulated by the Judging Panel and representatives from the Prize’s two main supporters, the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Booker Prize Foundation, before being awarded 10,000 US Dollars by HE Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, the Foundation’s Managing Director and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

Traditionally the winner is awarded a further 50,000 US Dollars but, as this year sees two winners, the prize money will be split between them. Both winners are guaranteed an English translation of their winning novels. Winners of the Prize can look forward to increased book sales and international recognition.

Jonathan Taylor, the Prize’s Chair of Trustees, commented: “These are interesting times for Arabic fiction, which are reflected in today’s exceptional announcement. For the first time the Judges decided that the Prize should be shared between two extraordinary books selected from an outstanding shortlist.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of the Arts and Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, added: “We are proud to acclaim two worthy winners – and the first winning female novelist! We have continued as primary funder of the Prize; however I must stress that the Foundation plays no part in managing the award or selecting either judges or winning novels. We are happy to help preserve the Prize’s independence.” 

The Prize was established in 2007 to address the limited international availability of high quality Arab fiction. Based on the successful model of the Man Booker Prize, it recognises the very best of contemporary Arabic writing over the past year and, by doing so, aims to encourage recognition of high quality Arabic fiction, reward Arab writers and lead to increased international readership through translation.  

Now in its fourth year, the Prize has had a significant impact on the Arabic literary scene. It has become the preeminent international prize for Arabic literary fiction and is widely followed internationally. The first two winners of the Prize – Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (2008) and Azazel by Youssef Ziedan (2009) – have not only secured English publications of their novels, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number of other international translations as a result of the Prize. News of an English translation of last year’s winner, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (2010), is imminent.

The 2011 winner announcement took place on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2011. Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem will take part in their first public event as winners of the Prize at the book fair on Tuesday 15 March, and there will also be an audience with some of the shortlisted finalists. Details as follows:

Al Multaqa Book Club event with IPAF shortlisted authors

Venue: Al Multaqa’s salon, Hall B, Stand E46, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ADNEC

Host: Asma Siddiq

Time: 1700-1900 hrs

Participants: Khaled al-Berry, Amir Tag Elsir and Bensalem Himmich

Meet the Winners of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011

Venue: KITAB Sofa, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ADNEC

Time: 2000-2100 hrs  

Participants: Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem

Further information on the above events, as well as additional events with IPAF authors at the fair, can be found on the book fair’s website:      www.adbookfair.com      

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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