According to The National, judge Shereen Abu El Naga, an Egyptian writer and professor, resigned from the panel Wednesday, when the shortlist was released.

Dr. Abu el Naga reportedly told the UAE paper: “The voting method was my main reason for resigning. There was no dialogue or discussion between myself and the other panellists and we could not debate our choices.”

To me, these contests are a black box. The well-known and widely respected Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim came out with a brilliant book in 2007, but was not shortlisted for the inaugural prize. Who’s in? Who’s out? How does it happen?

Anyhow, whether or not these are the “best books,” the contest does raise the profile of writers in Arabic, and perhaps puts everyone’s feet to the fire in terms of producing better art, reading better, translating better. Perhaps.