Longlist, judges and dates announced for 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction


On Monday 1st March 2021 the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2021 prize, which will award $50,000 to the ultimate winner. The novels selected by the judges were chosen from 121 entries, all published in Arabic between 1st July 2019 and 31st August 2020.

The longlisted authors for IPAF’s 14th edition range in age from 31 to 75 and represent 11 countries. Collectively, the writers address important issues facing the Arab world today from suffering in Iraq to the spread of extremist organisations and the position of women in the Arab world. Crime novels also have a strong presence on the list this year, with narratives exploring crimes committed against the backdrop and aftermath of wars and conflicts. Further themes explored are human relationships, loyalty, betrayal and the power of literature across the Arabic world in cities from Aden and Amman to Casablanca, Oran and beyond.   

The longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Lebanese poet and author Chawki Bazih. Judging alongside Bazih are Mohammed Ait Hanna, a Moroccan writer, translator and lecturer of Philosophy at the Regional Centre for Teaching Careers and Training in Casablanca; Safa Jubran, a lecturer of Arabic Language and Modern Literature at the University of San Paolo in Brazil; Ali Al-Muqri, a Yemeni writer twice longlisted for IPAF in 2009 and 2011 respectively; and Ayesha Sultan, an Emirati author, journalist, founding director of Warrak Publishing House and Vice President of the Emirates Writers Union.

Those on the 2021 longlist who have been recognised by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in previous years include Jalal Barjas (longlisted in 2019 for Women of the Five Senses), Mansoura Ez Eldin (shortlisted in 2010 for Beyond Paradise), Youssef Fadel (shortlisted in 2014 for A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me), Hamed al-Nazir (longlisted in 2016 for The Prophecy of Saqqa and again in 2018 for The Black Peacock), Muhsin Al-Ramli (longlisted in 2010 for Dates on my Fingers and again in 2013 for The President’s Garden) and Habib Selmi (shortlisted in 2009 for The Scents of Marie-Claire and again in 2012 for The Women of al-Basatin).

Authors who have been longlisted for the prize for the first time are Abdulatif Ould Abdullah, Abdullah Albsais, Abdulla Al-Eyaf, Abbas Baydoun, Amira Ghenim, Amara Lakhous, Dunya Mikhail, Sara al-Nams, Abdelmeguid Sabata and Ahmed Zein.

The full 2021 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is as follows:



Country of origin


Abdulatif Ould Abdullah

The Eye of Hammurabi


Dar Mim

Abdullah Albsais

M for Murderer: S for Sa’id



Abdulla Al-Eyaf

Hole to Heaven

Saudi Arabia

Dar Rashm

Jalal Barjas

Notebooks of the Bookseller


The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing

Abbas Baydoun

Boxes of Desire


Dar al-Ain

Mansoura Ez Eldin

The Orchards of Basra


Dar al-Shorouk

Youssef Fadel

The Life of Butterflies



Amira Ghenim

Calamity of the Nobility


Dar Mesaa

Amara Lakhous

The Night Bird


Manshurat al-Hibr

Dunya Mikhail

The Bird Tattoo


Dar al-Rafidain

Sara al-Nams



Dar al-Adab

Hamed al-Nazir

Two Green Eyes


Dar Tanweer - Lebanon

Muhsin Al-Ramli

Daughter of the Tigris


Dar al-Mada

Abdelmeguid Sabata

File 42


Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi

Habib Selmi

Longing for the Woman Next Door


Dar al-Adab

Ahmed Zein

Fruit for the Crows




The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and has been mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

Chawki Bazih, Chair of the 2021 Judges, said:

‘This abundant harvest of writing is the natural fruit of an unholy alliance between the Covid 19 epidemic - which closed all the doors to writers except language – and the epidemic of Arab regimes, fortified by every kind of corruption and oppression. This explosion of creativity is reflected in this year’s submissions and longlist, whose authors have written the true history of forgotten and marginalized people and places, and given voice to the weak and dispossessed. These 16 outstanding books from across the Arab world encompass a variety of styles and themes, from documentary-like narrative, to letters and ingenious use of the crime thriller genre, all penetrating the social and psychological fabric of Arab society. They have boldly exposed the many tragic faces of Arab reality and held regimes responsible for human rights abuse, the stealing of freedoms, persecution of women and their encouragement of violence, fundamentalism and wars.’

Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said:

‘The longlist for this cycle continues to excel in the range of themes, styles and narrative modes that have been witnessed in previous years. History, both recent and distant, is a feeder of ideas and perspectives that the novels in this cycle mine to unpack the past and illuminate the present. The novels’ stuttering transitions throughout history, multiple viewpoints vocalised, mysteries uncovered and attempted to resolve and the boundaries traversed all testify to the increasingly experimental nature of the Arabic novel as it stares at itself in times of fracture and intense self-examination.’

Key Dates:

  • The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced on 29 March 2021
  • The winner of the 14th IPAF will be announced on 25th May 2021

In fulfilling its ambition to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the prize provides funding for English translation for its winners. Winning novels published in English include Hoda Barakat’s The Night Mail (translated as Voices of the Lost, Oneworld); Rabai al-Madhoun’s Fractured Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba (Hoopoe); Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld, UK, and Penguin Books, US); Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk;  Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly; Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace(Duckworth, UK, and Overlook Press, US); Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles; Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel (Atlantic Books); and Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis (Sceptre).

2020 saw the publication in English of several novels recognised by the prize, including The Slave Yards by Najwa Bin Shatwan (shortlisted in 2017), translated by Nancy Roberts and published by Syracuse University Press; The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous (shortlisted in 2018), translated by Elisabeth Jaquette and published by Knopf; and The Girl with the Braided Hair by Rasha Adley (longlisted as Passion in 2018), translated by Sarah Enany and published by Hoopoe.

2021 will also see the translation into English of The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted in 2020), translated by Paula Haydar; All the Women Inside Me by Jana Elhassan (shortlisted in 2013 as Me, She and the Other Women), translated by Michelle Hartman; and Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (shortlisted in 2019), translated by Michelle Hartman. All three will be published by Interlink Books (USA).