Nine emerging writers — from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, the KSA, Oman, and the UAE — are currently taking part in the annual International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) nadwa, or masterclass, led by Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher:
Nine authors, the oldest 40, began an eight-day workshop yesterday led by Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher, Moroccan Zhor Gourram, and Palestinian-Jordanian Ibrahim Nasrallah.
The IPAF nadwa, now in its sixth year, brings together emerging writers from across the region. Previous masterclass participants, such as Mohammad Hassan Alwan and Mansoura Ez Eldin, have gone on to win prizes for their work. Ahmed Saadawi, who worked on his Frankenstein in Baghdad at the 2012 nadwa, won the 2014 IPAF this spring.
Throughout the eight days, the writers will “take part in daily discussions with their peers, critiquing each other’s work as well as discussing literature in more general terms.”
“The key thing about the nadwa,” Ibrahim Nasrallah said in a prepared statement, “is to be open to different kinds of writing and to discuss these differences. If we treat each session as a blank slate to debate our ideas, as well as the individual texts in hand, then both participants and the mentors can learn a great deal from the experience. Creativity often rebels against rules we have learnt and invents its own rules in turn.”
Although the results of the first nadwa came out as a book, that seems to have fallen off. This year, organizers promise that the nine new works of fiction that result from the nadwa “will be, in time, edited and published through the IPAF website: www.arabicfiction.org.”
The nine writers:
Dina Mohamed Abd Elsalam (Egypt) was born in Alexandria in 1976 and graduated from the English Department of the Arts College of Alexandria University in 1998. She obtained an MA in 2005 and a doctorate in Literary Criticism in 2010. She currently teaches literary criticism, classical literature and film studies in the same department. Her first novel, A Text Abandoned by Its Heroes, was published in 2012. She has directed two short films which have been shown at a number of Arab and international festivals and won several prizes.
Sultan Al Ameemi (UAE) is a writer, born in 1974. He has published over 17 works, including studies of popular literature, two short story collections and a novel, P.O. Box 1003 (2014). He currently works as head of the Academy of Arabic Poetry in Abu Dhabi and is a member of the judging panel for the Million’s Poet reality television contest. He is currently working on a variety of fictional projects and publications related to popular literature and ethnology.
Suleiman al-Muamari (Oman) is a broadcaster and novelist, born in 1974. He is the author of one novel, The Man who didn’t Like Abdel Nasser (2013), as well as three short story collections: Maybe It’s because He’s a Defeated Man(2000), Things are Closer to the Mirror than They Appear (2005), winner of the Youssef Idris short story award in 2007, and Narrow-minded Abdel Fatah Doesn’t Like Details (2009). He was head of the Omani Writers’ Association from 2008-2010 and of the Short Story Writers’ Association from 2007-2009. He currently works as Director of Cultural Programming for Oman radio.
Taher al-Zahrani (Saudi Arabia) is a short story writer and novelist, born in Jeddah in 1978. He has published several novels, including: Towards the South (2010), Children of the Street (2013) and The Mechanic (2014). He is also the author of a collection of short stories entitled The Vendor’s Box (2010). He works in the government media centre in Jeddah and freelances as a journalist.
Nassima Raoui (Morocco) is a poet, born in Rabat in 1988. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Marketing and International Commerce from the National School of Commerce and Management at the University of Abdel Malik al-Saadi. Her work has been published in a number of Arab newspapers and magazines. In 2012, she won both the International Tangier Poetry Prize and another competition organised by the House of Poetry in Morocco and Dar Al-Nahda publishing house in Lebanon. She won the Cultural Dialogue Prize for Literature in 2013. She was honoured by the Moroccan Writers’ Union as part of the Mohammed Shukri series. She has published Riot of Words (2007) andBefore Tangier Awakes (2012).
Ahmed Salah Sabik (Egypt) is an architect, graphic designer, illustrator and novelist, born in 1981. He graduated from Cairo University in 2003 and has worked as an architect and designer for a number of Egyptian design studios, as well as in Budapest and London. Nimrod (2013) is his first novel.
Majid Suleiman (Saudi Arabia) is a novelist and short story writer, born in 1977. He works at the Prince Sultan Bin Abdelaziz University, Riyadh. He has published three novels: Hot Spring (2011), Blood Drips between Turbans and Beards (2013) and Birds of Darkness (2014). He has also written a short story collection, A Star Throbbing in the Dirt(2013), and some children’s literature, including The Chest (story, 2014) and The Fathers (play, 2014).
Shahla Ujayli (Syria-Jordan) is a Syrian writer, born in 1976. She holds a doctorate in Modern Arabic Literature and Cultural Studies from Aleppo University in Syria and currently teaches Modern Arabic Literature at the University of Aleppo and the American University in Madaba, Jordan. She is author of a short story collection entitled The Mashrabiyya (2005) and two novels: The Cat’s Eye (2006), which won the Jordan State Award for Literature in 2009,and Persian Carpet (2013). She has also has published a number of critical studies, including The Syrian Novel: Experimentalism and Theoretical Categories (2009), Cultural Particularity in the Arabic Novel (2011) and Mirror of Strangeness: Articles on Cultural Criticism (2006).
Emad al-Wardani (Morocco) is a short story writer and researcher, born in 1980. He holds an Advanced Diploma in Literature and has published his literary and critical works in Arab newspapers and magazines. He worked on the editorial board of the Austrian magazine Tomorrow’s World and as a cultural editor. He has organised and participated in workshops focusing on literary criticism, creative writing and cultural media. He won the Mohammed Berrada Prize for Literary Criticism in 2011, the Moroccan Writers Union Prize for young writers for his short story collection entitled Perfume of Betrayal (2013), which was translated into Spanish and French, and the 2013 Dubai Arts and Culture Prize for his collection A Smell No-One Tolerates, to be published soon.