International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist Countdown: Reading ‘The Sad Night of Ali Baba’

ArabLit and 7iber continue coverage of this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) longlist – in English and Arabic — with Abdel Khaliq al-Rikabi and The Sad Night of Ali Baba, about which al-Rikabi said, “I don’t think I have ever encountered as many moral dilemmas in writing any of my previous novels as I did with this one.”

alrikabiAbdel Khaliq Al Rikabi was born in Iraq in 1946. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Baghdad and began his writing life as a poet, later turning to fiction. In 1987, his novel The Filter (1986) won the Eastern Fair Prize in Baghdad, while his novel The Seventh Day of Creation (1994) received the Best Iraqi Novel Prize in 1995. It was also selected by the Arab Union of Writers in Damascus as one of the 20 best Arabic novels of the twentieth century and has been translated into Chinese. The Sad Night of Ali Baba (2013) is his seventh novel.

The Sad Night of Ali Baba starts with the 2003 American occupation and looks back at the events that have defined Iraq in the 20th century, from the Ottoman Empire to the British and American occupations. “He explores the explosion of repressed religious, racial and sectarian tensions in Iraq as a result of occupation, and the subsequent hatred, intolerance and desire for revenge.”

Jona Fras interviews al-Rikabi about A Novel That Had To Be Written, Whatever Happened

A longer biography from publisher Dar Safi

An excerpt from Maqamat Isma‘il al-Dhabih, “The Arab Altar,” trans. William Hutchins

Previously featured novels:

Amir Tag Elsir’s ‘366

Ashraf al-Khamaisi’s God’s Land of Exile

Ibrahim Abdelmeguid’s ‘Clouds Over Alexandria’

Inaam Kachachi’s ‘Tashari’

Ahmed Saadawi’s ‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’

Khaled Khalifa’s ‘No Knives in the Kitchens of This City’