2019 IPAF Longlist Features ‘Strong, Female-led Narratives’

The 16-book longlist for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) boasts the largest number of women-authored books in the prize’s 12-year history, tied with 2011:

The prize — which has been criticized both for under-representing and over-representing women authors — centered these women’s narratives in its January 7 announcement.

The longlist was chosen by a five-person panel chaired by Moroccan critic Charafdin Majdolin. They selected a list that’s full of books that “feature strong, female-led narratives, including the history of modern Iraq told through the eyes of a female journalist, the stories of women scattered across the globe after the Lebanese war and the experience of a female writer struggling to compete with her male counterparts.”

Outside of 2011, when there were also seven women and nine men on the longlist, and 2015, when there were five women authors, women have been a minority presence, with only one or two books on the longlist each year. For one reason or another, gender has often been a point of contention for IPAF watchers.

In a prepared statement, Mandolin said that the longlisted novels “arise from different experiences and stylistic choices, ranging from the historical to a contemplative kind of realism; from the autobiographical to the documentary; and from extended to economic narrative prose. This may be because the authors come from different generations, or from different parts of the Arab world.”

As expected, acclaimed authors Hoda Barakat (The Night Post) and Inaam Kachachi (The Outcast) both appear. This is Kachachi’s third time on the IPAF longlist. Her shortlisted The American Granddaughter was translated to English by Nariman Youssef, although it has fallen out of print. Omaima al-Khamis, the Saudi novelist who just won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature last December, is also on the longlist for her historical novel Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate.

Other authors returning to the longlist include Algerian novelist Waciny Laredj (this is his fourth longlisting); Lebanese writer May Menassa; and Syrian novelist Shahla Ujayli, who was previously shortlisted for A Sky So Close to UsThis novel recently appeared in Michelle Hartman’s English translation.

Many of the 10 authors who appear on the longlist for the first time have also won major prizes, as for instance Adel Esmat (former winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for Tales of Yusuf Tadros) and Maysalun Hadi (a winner of the Katara Prize). Those ten are: Mohammed Abi Samra, Jalal Bargas, Adel Esmat, Maysalun Hadi, Huji Jaber, Mohammed Al-Maazuz, Mbarek Rabi, Habib Sayah, Iman Yehia and Kafa Al-Zou’bi.

Four of these novels also appeared on ArabLit’s “Arab Authors Favorites of 2018” list.

The other judges — in addition to Charafdin Majdolin — are Saudi poet Fowziyah AbuKhalid, Jordanian poet Zulaikha Aburisha, Chinese academic-translator Zhang HongYi, and Lebanese critic Latif Zeitouni.

The full 2019 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname:

Author Title Country of origin Publisher
Mohammed Abi Samra Women Without a Trace Lebanon Riyad al-Rayyes


Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate Saudi Arabia Dar Al Saqi



Hoda Barakat The Night Post Lebanon Dar al-Adab


Jalal Bargas Women of the Five Senses Jordan Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing


Adel Esmat The Commandments Egypt Kotob Khan


Maysalun Hadi Mohammed’s Brothers Iraq Dar al-Dhakira


Huji Jaber Black Foam Eritrea Dar Tanweer, Lebanon


Inaam Kachachi The Outcast Iraq Dar al-Jadid


Waciny Laredj May — The Nights of Isis Copia Algeria Dar al-Adab


Mohammed Al-Maazuz What Sin Caused her to Die? Morocco Cultural Book Centre


May Menassa I Killed My Mother to Live Lebanon Riyad al-Rayyes


Mbarek Rabi Western Mediterranean Morocco Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing


Habib Sayah Me and Haim Algeria Dar Mim


Shahla Ujayli Summer with the Enemy Syria Difaf Publishing


Iman Yehia The Mexican Wife Egypt Dar al-Shorouk


Kafa Al-Zou’bi Cold White Sun Jordan Dar al-Adab

The shortlist is set to be announced on February 5, with the winner announced in Abu Dhabi on April 23 of this year. As in past years, the six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.

Last year’s prize went to Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Dog War II.