The winner of the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is set to be announced at a ceremony at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi this evening. The events will begin at 7 p.m. local time, and will be followed with a press conference with the winner at 8:30 p.m. local time, 5:30 p.m. GMT:
The six novels on the 2018 shortlist 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.
In the runup to the announcement, you IPAF organizers conducted interviews with the six shortlisted authors.
From the interview with Aziz Mohammed:
As for the writers who have influenced me, Jeff Kinney who wrote Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes to mind. The boy in this series maintains his sense of sarcasm even in his darkest hours, which he uses to make light of his misfortune. This made it easier for him to move on to the next misfortune without being stuck in the misery of this cycle. This is close enough to what I tried to do with K.
From the interview with Amir Tag Elsir:
I write about different ideas. Some of my novels are historical, others are contemporary. I believe that historical fiction allows for a good amount of fluidity and movement. I like to read a lot of history and like to get inspired by it when I have a suitable idea for a particular setting. This novel is about sectarianism and chaos that was often repeated in history and is continuously being repeated. I found it suitable to be written in that time period.
From the interview with Shahad Al Rawi:
I don’t remember when the novel began to take shape in my mind and when it became ready to write. Every time I looked back to my childhood, an inner voice called me to write, but I would always put it off, like someone trying to avoid a task. I am naturally lazy and not good at starting things. It so happened that one day in Autumn 2014, I decided to sit down and begin writing. I didn’t have a ready-made idea about the type of adventure on which I was embarking. Writing the beginning was easy and then the events drew me on, as though a barrier had been broken down between me and a novel already in existence in some place or other, and I just had to pull it down onto paper. Do you call this inspiration?
From the interview with Ibrahim Nasrallah:
The best thing about this experience is that it awoke new spaces in my mind and imagination, and posed questions that I had never asked myself before. I had to create a future with inventions that don’t exist today in the fields of cinema, education, repression, transportation and even cosmetic surgery! I had to create this future in order to reach the essence of people’s relationship to the future and to try to answer some of the big questions that have occupied mankind, like war, love, possession, greed, self and other, the past and the future.
From the interview with Dima Wannous:
I haven’t stopped writing since I left Syria at the end of Summer 2011, but the distance from my country, family, home and friends has interfered with my ability to imagine, and broken in my spirit the basic thing which motivated my writing: desire and pleasure. I began my novel numerous times. Many mornings, I tore up the first chapter and re-wrote it. In February 2016, I decided to deal with this perplexing sense of inability. It was extremely difficult, harsh and painful to do so. In The Frightened Ones, I confront this issue twice: I confront the inability to write and invent imagined lives far from the immediate reality in which we are immersed, because of the massacres in Syria that stain the soul and spirit; and also the personal incapacity we Syrians experience who are scattered abroad, displaced in tiring, difficult circumstances. Writing The Frightened Oneswas like psychiatric therapy for me, and just like such therapy sessions, it triggered memories, difficult sensations and muddled and disconcerting emotions. However, I began the book in February and finished it in six months. I couldn’t stop writing even for a day. I carried it with me throughout those months, from Beirut to every city I visited during that period. I began it several times, but the ending was written in one go – and then I could breathe again.
From the interview with Walid Shurafa:
Simple binaries [definitions of identity] have become more complex within both the Palestinians and Israelis. I wanted to explore how religious narratives could innoculate the mind, so that it would turn to cruelty and violence. So the mission of the novel was to reject fundamentalism and champion the experience of the Palestinian people, who paid the price for these religious narratives. The images in the novel show the extent of the pain these narratives have caused. The main character in the novel ‘Al-Wahid’ is on the one hand an innocent orphan, and on the other a historian who is deeply involved in the different narratives.