The six novels shortlisted for the tenth International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) showcase what’s expected to be the best in contemporary Arabic literature, celebrating a rich heritage while addressing topical issues and/or issues.
Here’s the 2016 shortlist, with authors in alphabetical order:
Mohammed Hasan Alwan A Small Death A fictionalised account of the life of Sufi saint Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi in the 12th century. It follows his heroic travels and mystic experiences from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
Najwa Binshatwan The Slaves’ Pens A dark story of slavery in Libya, based on the taboo love between slave owner Mohammed and his slave Ta’awidha. Mohammed’s father sends him away on a trading mission in an attempt to distance him from Ta’awidha; during his absence, his mother forces Ta’awidha to miscarry and she is married off to another slave. On his return, Mohammed learns of his family’s activities and he begins searching for his beloved.
Ismail Fahd Ismail Al-Sabiliat During the Iran-Iraq war, the streams flowing into the Shatt al-Arab river were blocked up, causing all the agriculture on its banks to die – apart from one green strip of land in an area called Al-Sabiliat. One old woman is responsible for this green lifeline, which supplies the village and the soldiers living in it.
Elias Khoury Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam A retelling of Khoury’s own personal story, the novel recounts of Palestinian Adam Danun and his immigration to New York where he attempts to become a novelist.
Mohammed Abdel Nabi In the Spider’s Chamber More than 50 men were arrested in the notorious “Queen Boat” incident in Cairo in 2001. Hany Mahfouz is one of them; though declared innocent, he emerges from the experience a broken man. Having lost the faculty of speech during the trial process, he finds that writing is the best way of healing his soul.
Saad Mohammed Rahim The Bookseller’s Murder Journalist Magid Baghdadi arrives in Baaquba, 60km north of Baghdad, to conduct a investigation commissioned by an anonymous but influential individual. Who murdered 70-year-old bookseller and artist Mahmoud al-Marzouq? Magid pieces together an interesting and complex life.
The novels selected were chosen from 186 entries from 19 countries, all published between July 2015 and June 2016. The winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi on 25 April 2017 at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair; the six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.
The 2017 judging panel comprises Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh (chair); Saleh Almani, a Palestinian translator; Libyan academic, novelist and broadcaster Fatima al-Haji; Egyptian novelist and academic Sahar ElMougy; and Greek academic and translator Sophia Vasalou.