Statement on behalf of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction
The IPAF board of trustees has issued a statement following the announcement of the 2019 winner:
Since the award of the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction in April, the Board of Trustees has further investigated how Hoda Barakat’s win (for The Night Mail) appeared to have come to be known before the official announcement. Each year, following the conclusion of the judges' meeting to decide the winner (held in Abu Dhabi within the 48 hours immediately preceding the announcement), the identity of the winner is known to a small team of key people involved in the administration of the Prize to enable them to co-ordinate the award ceremony and subsequent media briefing. These people do not include authors, publishers, or indeed, the entirety of the Board of Trustees.
Following its inquiries, the Board of Trustees is satisfied that no inappropriate disclosure of the winner's identity was made prior to the official announcement either by the judges or its team of key people. In particular, the Board of Trustees wishes to emphasise that it has had, and continues to have, complete confidence in the integrity and propriety of the 2019 judging panel, and the Board thanks them for their diligence, care and rigour throughout the judging process.
Accordingly, the Board can only accept assurances it has been given that what was published prior to the award ceremony was conjecture although presented in a way that might be interpreted as knowledge. There was nothing the Board could have done to prevent this happening. However, the Board does keep all aspects of the Prize under constant review, and will continue to take practical and appropriate steps wherever possible to mitigate against future possible mischance, including ensuring that the time between the meeting of judges to decide the winner and the award ceremony is reduced.
The Board of Trustees would like to correct a number of misconceptions surrounding the calling-in of novels for consideration by the judges. An essential feature of the Prize is that all the judges consider all the works submitted. Another feature is that submissions are made by publishers according to a quota system (this is public and published on the IPAF website). The rule permitting the judges to call in novels has been in existence for many years and in no way implies a predetermination of the merits of that novel. When called in, the novel in question is subject to the same scrutiny as all the other novels, and the call-in process takes place before the judges have read all the submissions. The decision to call in lies with the judging panel alone, and as all judges can testify, the Board of Trustees takes no part at all in the process.