Qatar’s New $650K Arabic Novel Prize Gets Relatively Quiet Launch

The first-ever Katara Prize for Arabic Novels — which held its prize ceremony Wednesday and promises to distribute a total of $650,000 to finalists and winners — feted its first ten finalists and two winners: Waciny Laredj and Samih Al Gabbas.

Press conference with the winners, from the Katara Prize twitter feed.
Press conference with the winners, from the Katara Prize twitter feed.

The five finalists in the category of published novels were: Qatar-based Sudanese novelist Amir Tag El Sir  for 366a novel that had been longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2014; Bahraini novelist Muneera Sawar for SlaveEgyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdelmeguid for Adagio; Iraqi novelist Nasira Al Sadoun for  Escaping the Vortexand Algerian novelist Waciny Laredj for Butterfly Kingdom. Each finalist was set to receive $60,000, while Laredj’s Butterfly Kingdom won the top “drama” prize, which grants it an additional $200K and means it’s to be translated to film or theatre.

There was relatively little fanfare outside Qatar, and this was about as heated as the excitement got:

The five finalists for unpublished novels were: Jalal Barjis from Jordan, Abdul Jaleel Al Tuhami from Morocco, Maisaloon Hadi from Iraq, Zakaria Abu Maria from Morocco, and Samih Al Gabbas from Egypt. Each one of these is promised $30,000.

In the unpublished-novel category, it is Gabbas’s work that took the drama prize.

The prize also promises that works will be translated into English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi — and marketed in these languages, as well as Arabic. However, the mechanism through which this will happen is not clear.