International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces 2018 Longlist: Packed with Well-known Writers

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has released their sixteen-book longlist for 2018, with a number of familiar authors: 

Fully eight of the sixteen writers have been on previous IPAF longlists:  Atef Abu SaifAmir Tag Elsir, Ibrahim NasrallahFadi Azzam, Antoine Douaihy, Hamed al-Nazir, Taleb al-Refai, and Amin Zaoui. This is only the IPAF’s eleventh year.

Critic and novelist Mahmoud Hosny expressed his disappointment in so many repeat novelists who seem to be on the longlist every year, “without showing us anything new.”

Among so many well-known novelists, there were only two debut works: Aziz Mohammed’s The Critical Case of K, listed by Egyptian author and critic Ahmed Naji as one of his favorites of 2017, and Shahad Al Rawi’s The Baghdad Clock. Al Rawi’s novel, touted as a bestseller, has already been translated into English, by Luke Leafgren. It’s set for an April release from OneWorld.

Dima Wannous’s The Frightened Ones is another book to watch. It’s currently being translated by Elisabeth Jaquette, and Wannous was previously named one of the “Beirut39,” a list of 39 great Arab authors under 40.

The 2018 judges were also announced. This year’s chair is Jordanian academic Ibrahim Al Saafin. The others are: Algerian author Inam Bioud, Sudanese-British novelist Jamal Mahjoub, Palestinian author Mahmoud Shukair, and Slovenian author-translator Barbara Skubic.

This year’s sixteen-novel longlist was chosen from among 124 total submissions sent in from 79 publishers. This is a steep decline in submissions from previous years, following a change in the rules aimed at limiting submissions. There were 180 submissions in 2015, 159 in 2016 and 186 in 2017.

One of the reasons for the large number of longlist veterans might be that those who have been previously longlisted for the prize can be automatically submitted for the prize, without counting against the publisher’s submissions.

According to prize administrator Fleur Montanaro, there were 33 submissions of novels by authors under 40, and thirty of this year’s submissions — about a quarter — were books by women.

The shortlist is set to be announced in February. The winner, as every year, will be announced on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, on April 24, 2018. Each of the shortlisted writers will be given a $10,000 prize, with an additional $50,000 for the winner.

The prize also supports translation into English, and two previous winners appear in English this year. Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, which won the IPAF prize in 2014, will be published in Jonathan Wright’s translation this month by Penguin and Oneworld. Rabai al-Madhoun’s 2016-winning book, Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba, is set to be published in Paul Starkey’s translation by Hoopoe Fiction in April.

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