Today: Countdown to International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announcement

This evening in Abu Dhabi, the winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction will be announced. There are six titles in contention — books by Abdelrahman Lahbibi, Ahmed Mourad, Ahmed Saadawi, Inaam Kachachi, Khaled Khalifa, and Youssef Fadel:

collage-small2-copy-2The five judges read through a record number of submissions — 156 — to get to a 16-strong longlist, announced in January, with the shortlist announced the following month.

The judges have now had two more months to re-read the novels and debate which of the six will be chosen as winner. Although there is a precedent for having a co-winner — Raja Alem and Mohamed Achaari shared the prize in 2011 — it’s unlikely to repeat any time soon.

As awards go, this has been a relatively low-controversy year, with perhaps the most grumbling (and cheering) over the inclusion of popular Egyptian novelist Ahmed Mourad. Women’s and more experimental narratives again have received short shrift, and while that aspect has received little attention this year, questions do continue about the judges’ methodology.

If there is any “frontrunner,” it is probably Khaled Khalifa, who was previously shortlisted for the prize and has already won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for his latest novel, There Are No Knives in This City’s Kitchens. 

The six:

Khaled Khalifa’s novel, There are No Knives in This City’s Kitchens, has already won this year’s Naguib Mahfouz medal (that previously happened with Miral al-Tahawy’s Brooklyn Heights). Khalifa also was shortlisted for the IPAF for his In Praise of Hatred, which was longlisted for England’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Asmaa Abdallah reviews the book: ‘A Reminder of Why the Revolution Was So Necessary and Inevitable’

Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Khalifa: ‘What Is Left of the City After All That?’

Translator Elisabeth Jaquette: Why This Novel Will Succeed in English

Ahmed Saadawi was named one of the “Beirut39” in 2009 — the top 39 Arab writers who were not yet 40 — and also was selected for an IPAF masterclass, where he worked on his groundbreaking novel, Frankenstein in Baghdad. The novel was also chosen as one of the favorites of 2013 on by ArabLit contributor Ines Abassi

Al-Mustafa Najjar reviews the book: A Golden Piece of Shit: On Morality and War

Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Saadawi: ‘The Novel Implicitly Questions This Concept of Salvation’

Read an excerpt of Frankenstein in Baghdad: from the Beirut39 collectiontrans. Anne Shaker.

Ahmed Mourad is a phenomenon in Egypt — a best-selling author who has rejuvenated the psychological thriller and engaged many new readers. There has been some controversy over whether a thriller can be “worthy” of a literary prize, but there is no question that Mourad is a favorite of readers. His Vertigo previously appeared in English.

Amira Abd El Khalek interviews Mourad: ‘I Am a Tough Reader’

Translator Robin Moger answers: 5 Questions on Translating Ahmed Mourad’s ‘Vertigo’

Cristina Dozio on Ahmed Mourad at the Mantua Book Festival: A Snaphsot of the New Generations of Egypt

Inaam Kachachi is the sole female writer on the list — which keeps happening with the IPAF. 7iber’s Siwar Masannat has written more about the issue of “lady writers.” But Kachachi herself is no stranger to the IPAF; she was previously shortlisted for her somewhat thin novel The American Granddaughter. 

Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Kachachi: ‘We Are Experiencing a True Upsurge in Iraqi Fiction’

Max Marin’s interview with Inaam Kachachi: On ‘Tashari’ and the Iraq She Carries With Her

Read an excerpt of Kachachi’s 2009-shortlisted novel: An American Granddaughtertrans. Nariman Youssef.

Youssef Fadel won Morocco’s Grand Atlas Prize for his 2000 novel Hashish,  and also has won a Morocco Book Prize in 2014 for his IPAF-shortlisted novel A Rare Blue Bird that Follows Me. 

Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Fadel: Throwing Light on the ‘Hidden Aspects of Ordinary Injustice’

Cristina Dozio reviews the novel: ‘A Rare Blue Bird That Flies with Me’: Morocco’s History Through the Eyes of a Prisoner

Abdelrahim Lahbibi was little-known before his third novel, The Journeys of ’Abdi, Known as the Son of Hamriya, made it onto this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) shortlist.

Al-Mustafa Najjar interviews Lahbibi: ‘The Novel Is the City’