Happy New Year! And an Overview of the Arabic Booker in 2010

I will be out of the country (Egypt, that is) through the new year, and for the duration away from computers and screens and Internet connections, insha’allah.

I’ll take my leave with an overview of the latest “Arabic Booker” (International Prize for Arabic Fiction) goings-on, and look briefly at what happens next.

It was October when Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis—the prize’s inaugural (2007-2008) winner—appeared in English. If you’ve read the blog before, you know it’s not the book I would’ve chosen as the 2007-2008 winner, but it’s still Taher and still worth reading. You can read my review on TQC if you’re so inclined.

In November, the 2009-2010 longlist came out,  featuring 16 books culled from a list of 115 eligible submissions.

A shortlister from the inaugural year, Mekkawi Said’s Cairo Swan Song, appeared in English in early December from AUC Press.

Then, on December 15, at the Beirut (Arab) Book Fair,  the shortlist of six was announced: Mansoura Ez Eldin’s Beyond Paradise (more about Ez Eldin) , Muhammad Al Mansi Qindeel’s A Cloudy Day on the West Side (more about Al Mansi Qindeel), Rabee Jabir’s America (more about Jabir), Abdo Khal’s She Throws Sparks (more about Abdo Khal), Raba’i Madhoun’s The Lady From Tel Aviv (more about Madhoun), and Jamal Naji’s When The Wolves Grow Old (more about Naji).

That day, one of the judges—Dr. Shereen Abu el Naga—resigned from the panel, citing a lack of discussion between panelists.

Abu el Naga did not mention an gender issues. However, this was the third year running that there was only one woman on the IPAF shortlist. A few days after the list was announced, Susannah Tarbush explored possible reasons for the one-woman phenomenon and other IPAF shortcomings.

Next year:

The book I chose to have (retroactively) won the inaugural IPAF, Sonallah Ibrahim’s Stealth, will be out in February 2010 from Aflame Books.

The winner of the 2009-2010 Arabic Booker is set to be announced on March 2, 2010, the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair. Despite financial troubles in the Emirates, this still promises to be quite a glittering affair, featuring such famous faces as Ben Okri, Margaret Drabble, and Ahdaf Souief.

Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel (the winner of the 2008-2009 IPAF) should be out in spring 2010 from Atlantic Books, according to Tarbush, insha’allah.