In Photos: Rabee Jaber’s ‘Druze of Belgrade’ Wins International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Chair of the Board of Trustees for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) Jonathan Taylor talks about this year's prize. The winner -- Rabee Jaber's The Druze of Belgrade -- was announced tonight, the evening before the opening of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Bachir Mefti, the Algerian novelist shortlisted for his Toy of Fire, speaks in a short film produced by IPAF about his work and about Algeria. He was the first to step up to the stage and receive his shortlist commendation.

Egyptian author Nasser Iraq was shortlisted for his novel The Unemployed. He talked in his short film about how he was born again after his first visit to Dubai, and how he was inspired to write about how all these cultures and peoples could live together in the Emirates.

Jabbour Douaihy described himself as a "cafe writer" in his short film and said it was necessary for him to write at least a little every day---even just a quarter of an hour---to continue the momentum of a book. He was shortlisted for The Vagrant.

Habib Selmi, shortlisted for his novel The Women of al-Bassatin, lives in France---as he notes many great Arab writers have lived in France. He said he has not and would not consider writing in French, although he loves the language, and all the languages of the world.

Rabee Jaber won the 2012 prize for his novel The Druze of Belgrade. Judge Gonzalo Fernandez Parrilla said that the great strength of Jaber's work is his narration, his storytelling ability. Judge Maudie Bitar said, "what we found different and special about Mr. Jaber's novel is his insight into the geography and history of Lebanon."

Jaber, in the film, described himself as more of a reader than a writer.

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere talked about the different ways in which his novel has been read; Judge Parrilla noted that was one of the strengths of Fishere's novel, Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge, that it could be read in different ways.

Dr. Georges Tarabichi, chair of judges, announces the winner.

Rabee Jaber accepts the award for his Druze of Belgrade. The English rights for the book were recently signed by New Directions. According to Jaber's literary agency, French rights for The Druze of Belgrade have been sold to Gallimard, which also took rights to his Berytus. New Directions bought the rights to thee books: In addition to The Druze, the also picked up the rights to Berytus and The Mehlis Report.

Jaber is clearly uncomfortable as he is swarmed by journalists.

Judges Maudie Bitar and Hoda Elsadda are sitting up front during the press conference after the announcement.

When asked if he thought he would win, Jaber said, "Well, actually, I hoped I'd be the winner two years ago with the novel America. But it seems that Hanna Yacoub, the protagonist in Druze of Belgrade, was a happier person."

Journalists taking notes at the press conference, including Boyd Tonkin of The Independent and Maya Jaggi.

Unfortunately, after the press conference, Rabee Jaber, who was clearly uncomfortable already, was nearly crushed by journalists and photographers. He decided after this to change his flight and return to Beirut tomorrow to be with his wife.

In any case, مبروك to the deserving Rabee Jaber, and مبروك to New Directions and Gallimard for signing foreign-language rights to Jaber’s workYou can read the IPAF press release online.

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Categories: Abu Dhabi Book Fair, Arabic Booker, International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF)

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  1. Two ‘Arabic Booker’ Judges on the 2012 Winner and Three Shortlisted Novels | Arabic Literature (in English)
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