‘Experimental Works’ Chosen for 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist

‘Experimental Works’ Chosen for 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist

The 2016 panel of judges for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) was revealed this morning along with the prize’s six-novel shortlist:

It was the year’s judging chair, Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban, who read out the names of the six shortlisted authors at a morning press conference in Muscat. Half have some previous IPAF connection: There are two books by authors who’ve formerly participated in IPAF nadwas, or workshops (Mohamad Rabie and Shahla Ujayli) and one formerly shortlisted novelist (Rabai al-Madhoun, for his The Lady from Tel Aviv). There is also one debut novelist, Moroccan Tareq Bakari, with his Numedia. The full list:

Title Author Country of origin Publisher
Numedia Tareq Bakari Morocco Dar al-Adab
Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba Rabai al-Madhoun Palestine Maktabat Kul Shee
Mercury Mohamed Rabie Egypt Dar Tanweer, Lebanon
Praise for the Women of the Family Mahmoud Shukair Palestine Hachette Antoine
A Sky Close to Our House Shahla Ujayli Syria Difaf Publications
The Guard of the Dead George Yaraq Lebanon Difaf Publications

Thiban said, in a prepared statement, that, “This year’s list features a number of experimental works, which try out new ground as they explore the experiences of the individual and the larger concerns of the Arab world, from personal issues to social, political and historical ones. The shortlisted novels are characterised by their innovative narrative forms and styles, which both question the heritage of the Arabic novel and address the tragedy of the present day Middle East.”
The region’s recent historical tragedies are certainly explored here, from the Palestinian nakba (Raba’i al-Madhoun’s Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba); to the Lebanese civil war novel (George Yaraq’s The Guard of the Dead); to Egypt’s stumblings (Mohamad Rabie’s dystopian political fantasy Mercury); to the occupation of Raqqa by ISIS (Ujayli’s A Sky So Close to Our House).

The other five judges, who were also announced this morning, are Egyptian journalist and poet Sayyed Mahmoud, Moroccan academic and critic Mohammed Mechbal, Bosnian academic Munir Muji?, and Lebanese poet, children’s-book author, and editor-in-chief of Al-Hayat Abdo Wazen.

The prize winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi on April 26, on the eve of the 2016 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with an additional $50,000 going to the winner.

Interviews with the six shortlisted authors:

Shahla Ujayli (@ShahlaUjayli): The characters’ individual tragedies ‘seem harsher than the collective tragedy’ 

Mohamad Rabie (@MohRabie78): On the ‘hope that clouds observation’

Rabai al-Madhoun (@rmadhoun): On his previously shortlisted novel, The Lady from Tel Aviv

George Yarak: On the book that IPAF judge Abdo Wazen ‘encouraged him to finish’

Tareq Bakari: On ‘those beautiful Amazigh worlds which form the unique core of the novel’

Mahmoud Shukair (@MahmoudShukair): On ‘contemplating the lives of a Bedouin Palestinian tribe’

Excerpts in translation:

Mohamed Rabie’s Mercury (Otared), trans. Robin Moger

Watch the video of this morning’s announcement:

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