Poetic, Experimental, Young: Inaugural Almultaqa Prize Shortlist

Al-Multaqa Prize for the Short Story has announced its inaugural shortlist, with an emphasis on vigorous, young, experimental writing with a mythological twist:

multaqaThe new Kuwait-based prize is unique in its dedication to Arabic short-story collections, promising $20,000 and translation into English for its winner.

The five-strong shortlist, announced yesterday, included Mazen Maarouf‘s “Nokat lil-Musalaheen” (“Jokes for the Gunmen”); Mohamed Rafie‘s “Asal al-Nun”;  Lutf al-Sarary‘s “Al-Raja’ Adam al-Qasf” (“Please Don’t Bomb”); Anis Arafai’s “Masahat al-Dumi” (“Clinic for Dolls”); and Khadija Alnemer’s “Al-Afkar al-Sabeha Bayn al-Sama’ w al-Ard” (“Ideas Hanging Between Earth and Sky”).

There were 189 collections in contention for the prize, sent in from 15 different countries. That was whittled down to a ten-book longlist announced a month ago, and now to a five-book shortlist.

Egyptian short-story writer and novelist Mohamed Rafie has previously taken a major prize for his short-story writing: the 2012 Sawiris prize for young writers for his short-story collection The Splendor of Water. An Al Hayat review called the stories in this latest collection “stories of place and mythology.”

Experimental Moroccan short-story writer Anis Arafai participated in the International Prize for Arabic Fiction writers’ workshop and has won the Gutenberg Prize. Fellow short-story writer Hisham Bustani called Arafai’s short stories “innovative, relentless, and an agitation to the imagination.”

A few of Arafai’s stories have been translated into English,  including “The Leg,” translated by Emma Ramadan and “Minouche,” translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.

Debut Palestinian-Icelandic short-story writer Mazen Maarouf is celebrated poet with three collections. His poems have been translated into at least seven languages. Jokes for the Gunmen was his debut short-story collection. His wonderfully strange, incantatory short story “The Boxes” was included in Beirut Noir, edited by Iman Humaydan and translated by Michelle Hartman.

Yemeni journalist and short-story writer Lutf al-Sarary debuted in 2009 with the collection Like Who Smokes One Cigarette in One Breath.

Saudi writer Khadija Alnemer is the only woman on the list: Reviewers praise her poetic language, breadth of cultural and historical knowledge, diversity of times and settings, as well as her portrayal of women’s lives.

The five judges are Ahmed al-Madeeni (chair), Ezzat al-Qamhawi, Dr. Ali Ajail al-Anezi, Dr. Fadia Faqir, and Salma Saleh.

The winner is set to be announced in December at the American University of Kuwait.