Longlist, judges and dates announced for 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction


The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has today, Monday 7th January 2019, revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2019 prize. The novels selected by the judges were chosen from 134 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2017 and June 2018.


The longlist includes seven female authors — matching the previous highest number set in 2011 — and nine male authors, ranging in age from 43 to 79 and representing nine countries. Collectively, the writers address important issues facing the Arab world today and reflect on the region’s rich history and traditions. The longlist includes novels that touch on poignant issues such as the stigma of poverty, the trauma of death and persecution, and the importance of protecting one’s family and homeland. A number of books on the list feature strong, female–led narratives, including the history of modern Iraq told through the eyes of a female journalist, the stories of women scattered across the globe after the Lebanese war and the experience of a female writer struggling to compete with her male counterparts.


The longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Charafdin Majdoline, a Moroccan critic and academic, who specialises in Aesthetics, Verbal and Visual Narratives and Comparative Studies. Judging alongside Majdolin are Fowziyah AbuKhalid, a Saudi Arabian poet, writer, academic and researcher in social and political issues; Zulaikha Aburisha, a Jordanian poet, columnist, researcher and human and women’s rights activist;  Zhang HongYi, a Chinese academic, translator and researcher; and Latif Zeitouni, a Lebanese academic and literary critic, who specialises in Narratology.


Of the 16 authors chosen, many are recognisable names. Six have been acknowledged in the past for the prize, including Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, longlisted for The Leafy Tree in 2010; Hoda Barakat, longlisted for The Kingdom of the Earth in 2013; Inaam Kachachi, shortlisted for The American Granddaughter in 2009 and again in 2014 for Tashari; Waciny Laredj, longlisted on three occasions for The Andalusian House in 2011, Lolita's Fingers in 2013 and Ashes of the East: the Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness in 2014; May Menassa,  shortlisted for Walking in the Dust in 2008 and a mentor for IPAF’s 2013 Nadwa; and Shahla Ujayli, who was shortlisted for A Sky Close to Our House in 2016 and attended the 2014 Nadwa as a mentee.


The 10 authors making their first appearance on the longlist are Mohammed Abi Samra, Jalal Bargas, Adel Esmat, Maysalun Hadi, Huji Jaber, Mohammed Al-Maazuz, Mbarek Rabi, Habib Sayah, Iman Yehia and Kafa Al-Zou’bi.


The full 2019 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is as follows:




Country of origin


Mohammed Abi Samra

Women Without Trace


Riyad al-Rayyes


Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis

Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate

Saudi Arabia

Dar Al Saqi



Hoda Barakat

The Night Mail


Dar al-Adab


Jalal Bargas

Women of the Five Senses


Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing


Adel Esmat

The Commandments


Kotob Khan


Maysalun Hadi

Mohammed's Brothers


Dar al-Dhakira


Haji Jaber

Black Foam


Dar Tanweer, Lebanon


Inaam Kachachi 

The Outcast


Dar al-Jadid


Waciny Laredj

May — The Nights of Isis Copia


Dar al-Adab


Mohammed Al-Maazuz

What Sin Caused her to Die?


Cultural Book Centre


May Menassa 

I Killed My Mother in Order to Live


Riyad al-Rayyes


Mbarek Rabi

Western Mediterranean


Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing


Habib Sayah

Me and Haim


Dar Mim


Shahla Ujayli 

Summer with the Enemy


Difaf Publishing


Iman Yehia

The Mexican Wife


Dar al-Shorouk


Kafa Al-Zou’bi

Cold White Sun


Dar al-Adab


Al-Khamis’ Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate has already achieved critical success in Cairo, winning the 2018 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.


Charafdin Majdolin, 2019 chair of judges, says:


“The novels selected for the longlist this year arise from different experiences and stylistic choices, ranging from the historical to a contemplative kind of realism; from the autobiographical to the documentary; and from extended to economic narrative prose. This may be because the authors come from different generations, or from different parts of the Arab world. The novels in the last analysis reflect intersecting human pain and disappointment as well as common aspirations.”


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

“The longlist for this year will appeal to the expanding readership of the prize. The novels chosen by the judges reflect the diversity of concerns that animate contemporary Arab society, even when these concerns are situated in a distant past or located outside the confines of the Arab world. Trauma, separation and disruption permeate these novels. The female voice in its multiple diversities resonates in these novels, as do the voices of different generations of Arab writers from different regions of the Arabic-speaking world. This is a strong list of established writers and new ones, and it attests to the continued rise of the novel as an uncontested platform of Arab fictional creativity.”

Key dates

  • Tuesday 5th February 2019: The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced at a press conference.
  • Tuesday 23rd April 2019: The winner of the 12th IPAF will be announced at an awards ceremony held at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

IPAF is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner. Last year’s winner was The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah.

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 last year included Rabai al-Madhoun’s Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and Al Nakba (Hoopoe Fiction) and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (Oneworld in the UK; Penguin Books in the US), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018. Also available in English are Baha Taher’s Sunset Oasis, Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel, Abdo Khal’s Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles, Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly, Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk and Raja Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace.


This year sees the publication in English of several novels recognised by the prize, including Mahmoud Shukair’s Praise for the Women of the Family (shortlisted in 2016), translated by Paul Starkey, published by Interlink and out now; Sinan Antoon’s Book of Collateral Damage (longlisted in 2017 as al-Fihrist), translated by Jonathan Wright and published by Yale University Press in May; George Yaraq’s Guard of the Dead (shortlisted in 2016) and translated by Raphael Cohen, and Ibrahim Abdelmeguid’s Clouds over Alexandria (longlisted in 2014) and translated by Kay Heikkinen both published by Hoopoe in May; Dima Wannous’ The Frightened Ones (shortlisted in 2018) translated by Elisabeth Jaquette and published by Harvill Secker in July; Ismail Fahd Ismail’s The Old Woman and the River (shortlisted as Al-Sabiliat in 2017) translated by Sophia Vasalou and published by Interlink this autumn.


For the first time in 2018, IPAF ran a bilingual author tour of America, featuring 2013 Kuwaiti winner Saud Alsanousi and his translator Jonathan Wright. Designed to encourage the readership of high quality Arabic literature in the US, the 10-day tour was hosted by comparative and Arabic literature departments in leading American universities across the East Coast. There are plans for future US tours in the Midwest and West Coast, including Illinois, Michigan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Alsanousi has a new novel Mama Hessa’s Mice, coming out in English this autumn, translated by Sawad Hussain and published by Amazon Crossing.


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 (DCT Abu Dhabi) and is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.