The Peninsula Qatar reported on Thursday that the Katara Novel Prize — which seems to be Qatar’s answer to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) and Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) — is moving forward. The prize committee announced Wednesday that they’d received 220 entries ahead of the October 31 deadline:
It’s an very large number of entries to have two and a half months before the deadline, even if only 85 are in the “published novel” category. The IPAF, by contrast, has between 120 and 150 total, and many of these squeeze in just ahead of the deadline.
The Katara Prize also has a section for unpublished novels. Thus far, according to general supervisor of the Katara Prize Khalid Abdulrahim Al Sayed, the committee has received 135 manuscripts in addition to 85 published novels.
As previously reported, the prize is split between published and unpublished works, and each of these sections will have a five-book shortlist. For the published novels, the five shortlisted books will each receive $60,000, while the five shortlisted manuscripts will each be awarded $30,000. Among these, one overall winner will be chosen to receive $200,000.
According to the Peninsula Qatar, Al Sayed said that there has been “significant participation from GCC citizens, particularly from Saudi Arabia, and also from Iraq despite the difficult situation in that country, and from Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. Famous novelists have also joined the competition with their distinguished works.”
Around a quarter of the entries had been by women, Al Sayed said.
Al Sayed also reportedly “stressed” that the prize “is committed to the values of independence, transparency, honesty and fairness in the selection of the winners,” also the method of demonstrating this transparency hasn’t yet been made clear.
According to the prize website, the judging will be done by four separate committees. It hasn’t been clear how the judges will be or have been chosen, how their independence and integrity will be maintained, and what “filtering rules” (قواعد الترشيح ) will be applied to the novels.
According to a previous report by The Peninsula Qatar, “Each jury comprises intellectuals, artists and critics who are not eligible to participate in the competition.” There has been no information about whether the judges’ names would be revealed or whether they would all remain anonymous.
Al Sayed also noted that the “organising committee will be responsible for translating the winning works into English, Spanish and French, and turning one of the novels into a drama.” Further, this committtee “will also publish and market the novels,” presumably across dozens of different countries, which seems like a good deal of work for one committee to take on.
Further, Al Sayed said “the organising committee was collaborating with different Arab entities, including the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation, Arab Publishers Union and the Union of Arab Writers to give the Prize a pan-Arab dimension.”
As for the rest, it remains until the fall to see.