Debut Tunisian Novel, Banned in UAE, Wins International Prize for Arabic Fiction

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction was just announced:

NOTE: Al-Mabkhout’s The Italian has now been given permission for distribution in the UAE.

Photo: International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

On Wednesday night, a Tunisian university administrator took the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for his debut novel, The Italian, at a glittering ceremony in Abu Dhabi. This came just a week after his publisher learned from an Abu Dhabi bookshop that the novel was banned from stores across the Emirates.

Shukri al-Mabkhout’s The Italian became the eighth winner of the $50,000 prize, popularly known as the “Arabic Booker.” While the award is funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, its longlist, shortlist, and winner are decided on by a panel of independent judges, this year chaired by beloved Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti. Read more over at the Guardian.

The full statement from IPAF organizers on the book’s availability: “While we understand that The Italian is not available for retail sale in the UAE, there will be copies available at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. As a Prize, we promote literature across borders but cannot influence the availability of our titles.”

Full speech from which judging chair Mourid Barghouti read at the awards ceremony, translated into English by IPAF staff.

The press release can be found at:

Short film profiling al-Mabkhout and The Italian: