Sheikh Zayed Book Award Announces 2017 Longlist, Features Work by a Mauritanian Novelist for the First Time

Both the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) will celebrate their winners at the 2018 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in April. But while the IPAF won’t announce its longlist until January, the SZBA has released its 13-book longlist today:

There are a number of long-celebrated writers — three have previously won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal; three have previously been listed for the IPAF — and many have works translated into English and other languages. One longlisted work, Dunya Mikhail’s Fi Souq al-Sabaya, is already set to appear in English translation in March 2018 from New Directions, as The Beekeeper.

The list is dominated by Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Saudi writers, but there are also some surprises, such as the novel Grapes of Vice by Mauritanian writer Ahmad Hafid. This seems to be the first time that a Mauritanian novelist has been longlisted for either the SZBA or the IPAF, although Mauritanian novelist Mohamed ould Mohamed Salem did win a spot in an IPAF writing retreat.

Indeed, when Sudanese novelist Hammour Ziada was asked about who’s missing from IPAF longlists, he said, “Eritrean literature misses out, also Somali and Mauritanian, and these are Arab countries with authors who write in Arabic.”

According to the news release, there were 337 titles submitted to this year’s SZBA. That’s almost triple the submissions allowed by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

Four of this year’s thirteen shortlisted titles are by women. Among them, only one — Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail — has had a book translated into English.


  • The Autumn of The Big City, by  Mahmoud al-Werwary (2017)
  • At Least We’re Together, by Ezzat el-Kamhawi (2017)
  • A Journey of Blood, by Ibrahim Eissa (2016)


  1. Remorse Test, by Khalil Sweileh (2017)
  2. Aleppo Metro, by Maha Hasan (2016)


  • The Devil Might Sometimes Love, by  Zainab Hifni (2017)
  • The Young Bedouin, by Maqbul al-Alawi (2016)


  • Jano, You are My Story, by Maysaloon Hadi (2017)
  • Fi Souq al-Sabaya, or, The Beekeeper, by Dunya Mikhail (2017, forthcoming in English March 2018)


  • Tracing a Cloud, by Lebanese author Hassan Daoud (2017)
  • Grapes of Vice, by Mauritanian novelist Ahmad Hafid (2016)
  • In Pursuit of Happiness, By Tunisian author Hassouna Mosbahi (2017)
  • The Witnessed Witness, by Jordanian novelist Walid Saif (2016)

Acclaimed Iraqi writer Maysaloon Hadi was previously shortlisted for the SZBA in 2012. The year Hadi was shortlisted, for her novel The Bride’s Tea, was one of the years the prize was withheld for “lack of suitable candidates.”

This has happened because the SZBA prize doesn’t have one set of judges — as one might expect with an award that juggles 337 nominated titles. There are “reading committees” to choose the longlist, a “scientific committee” to choose the shortlist, and a final panel of judges to choose the winner. In past years, the judges are have not been named and have not been made available for questions.

The award will also announce longlists in several other categories, including “Children’s Literature,” “Young Author,” and “Translation.”

The Naguib Mahfouz Medal Winners:

Other longlisted authors with book-length works available in English: