And the season for Arabic Booker 2011 begins!

That’s because International Prize for Arabic Fiction (“Arabic Booker”) organizers announced this week that they’d closed submissions after having received a “record” 123 entries from 17 countries. Novels were submitted from the expected quarters, and—for the first time—from Afghanistan.

Rather un-shockingly, organizers report that over a quarter of the submissions came from Egypt.

It’s a rather slim “record,” being only six more novels than last year (when 117 were submitted). The more interesting news, I think, is that submissions from female writers were up, with works by female writers forming 29% of the overall total. That’s up from 16% last year and 14% the year before.

Dr. Samia Mehrez had said, in a previous interview, that—judging by women’s literary production in Arabic—she would expect two of the six Arabic Booker shortlistees to be women. In the award’s first three years, only one writer on the shortlist was a woman.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Radwa Ashour’s Al-Tantoureya on the shortlist. And of course there’s also Miral al-Tahawy’s Brooklyn Heights, which was submitted by Egypt’s Dar Merit.

The schedule:

Longlist: November 10.

Shortlist: December 9.

Winner: March 14, just as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair opens.

Read more on Susannah Tarbush’s website, the Tanjara.

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