International Prize for Arabic Fiction Announces 2018 Shortlist

The judges’ chair of the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) announced the shortlist in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday:

The announcement livestream.

It was a diverse six-novel shortlist from the prize also called the “Arabic Booker,” and the list includes both familiar faces and two debut novelists; futuristic fiction and a historical novel; a popular bestseller; a novel-in-diaries; and a meta-fictional work about fear. There are novels that imagine futures where Daesh-like forces take over, but also satire about ordinary life.

The six novels are:

Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir’s Flowers in Flames; Saudi novelist Aziz Mohammed’s The Critical Case of “K”; Palestinian-Jordanian novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah’s The Second War of the Dog; Iraqi author Shahad al-Rawi’s Baghdad Clock; Palestinian writer Walid Shurafa’s Heir of the Tombstones; and Syrian writer Dima Wannous’s The Frightened Ones.

English translations of two of the shortlisted books are already forthcoming: Shahad al-Rawi’s The Baghdad Clock is set to appear this summer from OneWorld, in Luke Leafgren’s translation, while Dima Wannous’s The Frightened Ones is forthcoming from Harvill Secker, in Elisabeth Jaquette’s translation, in 2019.

The announcement was made by the 2018 chair of judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, during a press conference held in Jordan and livestreamed online.

Saafin said that the six novels chosen “delighted the judges with their fresh exploration of social, political and existentialist themes,” and added that, “They allude to the challenging new realities of the Arab world, from Syria to Sudan, but transcend the factual and prosaic.”

More on the IPAF shortlist and reaction will be forthcoming.


  1. I thought putting Shahad al-Rawi on the longlist was a hilariously bizarre joke. Now I really don’t know what to say. Except that any credibility the IPAF might have had just went head first down the drain.

    1. The existence of The Baghdad Clock” in the short list has given the prize a high credibility as it offers modern literature as well as traditional methods of Arabic narrative.

      1. Oh, come on, quit the BS. You’ll find modern literature and traditional methods of Arabic narrative anywhere, among previous prize winners as well as among writers never even seen on the longlist. But ساعة بغداد is just a sentimental load of YA junk, no more no less.

    1. Well, I have read the novel, so there wasn’t much in these reviews to convince me. Actually I quite enjoyed the first 20-30-something pages of the book, but then it all went downhill. al-Rawi might evolve into a better writer in the future, but this novel is screechingly immature, and listing it for the IPAF isn’t in the best interest of anybody.

      1. Perhaps, but it remains a controversial novel, before the IPAF and after the IPAF , and this is the secret of its success. it is written in a different style we have not used to deal with.

        1. Sure, if quality was all about being controversial or successful or different. But, الحمد لله , it isn’t.

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