Longlist Announced for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012

The long-awaited longlist for the 2012 International Prize for Arabic Fiction was announced this morning. Popularly known as the Arabic Booker, the prize, currently in its fifth year, has come to be regarded as the premier prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. This year’s list contains 13 titles, culled from a selection of 101 entries from 15 countries, all published within the last year.

More from the press release:

The longlisted authors come from seven countries, with four authors apiece from Lebanon and Egypt. Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia and Jordan are each represented by one author. This year a number of the longlisted novels deal with the theme of the Lebanese war, whilst other common themes include displacement – both for expatriate Arabs and those who have lost loved ones in childhood – and the challenge of rediscovering one’s roots and identity.

 Youssef Ziedan, who won the Prize in 2009 with Azazel, makes it onto this year’s longlist with The Nabatean. He is joined by three other previously shortlisted authors: Jabbour Douaihy (June Rain, 2008); Habib Selmi (The Scents of Marie-Claire, 2009) and Rabee Jaber (America, 2010). Ezzedine Choukri Fishere was longlisted for the Prize in 2009 for Intensive Care.

 These books were selected by a panel of five specialists in the field of Arabic literature. The judges’ names will be announced in Cairo on Wednesday 7 December 2011, at the same time as the 2012 shortlist. 

 The 2012 longlist is as follows:

Title: Paving the Sea
Author: Rashid al-Daif (Lebanon)
Publisher: Riyad al-Rayyes

Title: The Vagrant
Author: Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)
Publisher: Dar al-Nhar

Title: The Druze of Belgrade
Author: Rabee Jaber (Lebanon)
Publisher: Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi

Title: Suitcases of Memory
Author: Sharbel Qatan (Lebanon)
Publisher: Naufel

Title: Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge
Author: Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (Egypt)
Publisher: Dar al-Ain

Title: The Unemployed
Author: Nasr Iraq (Egypt)
Publisher: Al-Dar al-Masriya al-Lubnaniya

Title: Nocturnal Creatures of Sadness
Author: Mohamed al-Refai (Egypt)
Publisher: Dar Merit

Title: The Nabatean
Author: Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)
Publisher: Dar al-Shorouq

Title: Toy of Fire
Author: Bashir Mufti (Algeria)
Publisher: Al-Ikhtilef

Title: Under the Copenhagen Sky
Author: Hawra al-Nadawi (Iraq/Denmark)
Publisher: Dar al-Saqi

Title: The Women of al-Basatin
Author: Habib Selmi (Tunisia)
Publisher: Dar al-Adab

Title: The Amazing Journey of Khair al-Din ibn Zard
Author: Ibrahim al-Zaarur (Jordan)
Publisher: Dar Fada’at

Title: Sarmada
Author: Fadi Azzam (Syria)
Publisher: Thaqafa

The 2012 Chair of Judges commented on the longlist: “The fifth cycle of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction takes place in exceptional circumstances, with many Arab uprisings against despotic regimes which have been entrenched in most regions of the Arab world for long decades. Without actually asserting that the novels nominated for this prize cycle directly prophesy the Arab Spring, we can say that many of them paint a picture of the stifling conditions prevalent before the explosion of uprisings. They take the reader into the underground world of the secret police and portray the thirst for freedom of many of their heroes and secondary characters, at the same time exposing the opportunism of those who co-operate with those secret forces.”

 The Prize, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2012, has become a leading cultural event in the Arab world. Lauded as the ‘foremost literary award for writing in Arabic’ (The National) and ‘the yardstick of literary excellence’ (The Times), it is the first of its kind in the Arab world in its commitment to independence, transparency and integrity. Its aim is to celebrate the very best of contemporary Arabic fiction and encourage wider international readership of Arabic literature through translation.

 In the past five years the Prize has secured English translations for all of its winners:  Bahaa Taher (2008), Youssef Ziedan (2009), Abdo Khal (2010) and joint winners Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem (2011). Taher’s Sunset Oasis was translated into English by Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton) in 2009 and has gone on to be translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Ziedan’s Azazel will be published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012, and Abdo Khal and Mohammed Achaari’s books will also be published in 2012, by the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. Raja Alem’s The Doves’ Necklace has recently secured an English language publisher, with The Overlook Press in America and Duckworth Books  in the UK. All of the winning titles, and a significant number of shortlisted and longlisted books have been translated internationally in South America, Europe and Asia.

 Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Board of Trustees, commented: “Five years on, it is hugely gratifying to see how the prize is fulfilling its purpose: to recognise and reward the best of Arabic literature and to encourage translation internationally. We are also delighted to see how the prize has stimulated Arabic fiction writing, as a genre.”

 Salwa Mikdadi, Head of Arts & Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, adds: “The Prize continues to garner regional and international interest in Arabic literature, as evident in the multiple editions and the translations into over twelve languages. The Foundation is proud to continue its support of the Prize in its fifth year.”

 The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is awarded for prose fiction in Arabic and each of the six shortlisted finalists receives $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.  It was launched in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in April 2007, and is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation and the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy.

 The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2012 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 27 March 2012, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

  •  For further information about the Prize, please visit www.arabicfiction.org or follow the prize on Facebook. The Prize also has its own entry in Wikipedia.
  • Spokespeople for the Prize are available for comment. To arrange an interview, please contact: Katy MacMillan-Scott or Ellie Hughes at Colman Getty on: 0044 (0)20 7631 2666 / katy@colmangetty.co.uk or elliehughes@colmangetty.co.uk
  •  Key dates for the 2012 Prize are: Shortlist announcement: Wednesday 7 December 2011. Winner announcement: Tuesday 27 March 2012
  • The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, one of the leading philanthropic organisations in the UAE. The Prize is also supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Etihad Airways.


  1. Is there a complete list of the 101 nominees available somewhere? I was surprised not to find a single book from al-Muassasa al-Arabiyya on the longlist, considering that so many of the most interesting novels are published there, and it makes me wonder whether there are worthy titles that were never even nominated.

    1. Johannes,

      No, just as with the Booker, the IPAF folks keep mum about the complete list of submitted titles. I asked the prize admin about that. She said:

      AL: Why don’t you just publish the whole list of everything that comes in?

      FM: I think partly it’s so that authors, you know, who are not nominated don’t lose face, as such. And I think actually a lot of authors would prefer that, actually, not to be known. They might be disappointed. That’s one reason.

      The whole interview:

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