It’s odd to call Elias Khoury an “emerging voice,” but the new FT / OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards literature prize is not for an “emerging writer,” but for a novelist (of any stripe) from an “emerging market“:
This year’s award looked at books published in “Africa and the Middle East” in countries with a GNI per capita of less than $12,746, which means that South Africa just sneaks in. Eligible books were written originally in English or published in English translation.
The full ten-book longlist includes two books from North Africa and one from Lebanon:
Unusually, the FT/Oppenheimer also lists all the authors submitted for the prize, although not which book was under consideration. (Was it Youssef Rakha’s Sultan’s Seal or his Crocodiles, both of which came out in translation in 2015?) And is “Anonymous (Casey B Dolan)” anonymous, or is it Casey B Dolan?
A lot of great authors and great books were submitted for the prize, including internationally recognized writers like Iranian novelist Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Mozambican writer Mia Couto, Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy, and Jordanian poet-novelist Amjad Nasser, all of whom look a bit funny with “emerging” appended to their names. Disappointingly, J.M. Coetzee isn’t in there as an “emerging” writer.
According to the prize website, the panel of judges — which includes the Director of Emerging Markets Equities for OppenheimerFunds — “aim to reward those in each of the eligible art forms whose work shows outstanding talent and in some way furthers understanding of their region.” Egyptian pop novelist Alaa al-Aswany is also among the judges.
In any case, it’s good to see these two excellent Arabic novels getting some Anglophone attention:
Khoury’s longlisted novel, Broken Mirrors, is set during the Lebanese Civil War and draws on many of the themes (and even characters) from his previous novels, circling beautifully around and around questions of memory and violence, although in a gentler way than in some of his previous books. Eltoukhy’s longlisted Women of Karantina is a wild, wonderful romp through Cairo’s future (which looks, of course, a good bit like Cairo’s present).
Meanwhile, Kamel Daoud’s widely reviewed The Meursault Investigation is quite well-known: It won the Five Continents Prize and was among the Goncourt’s Final Four in its original French, and also took a PEN Promotes award in English.
According to the prize website, finalists for each category will be announced on August 7 and winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony in New York on October 5. There are also prizes for “art” and film.