Novels of ‘Family, Memory, Disappointment’ Make 2019 IPAF Shortlist

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction revealed the prize’s 2019 shortlist today at the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem. Judges who were unable to travel to Jerusalem joined by video link:

All six books on this year’s shortlist are by established novelists, and most of the authors are internationally known: Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat was previously a finalist for the Man Booker International and has received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite National; Egyptian author Adel Esmat won the 2016 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his Tales of Yusuf TadrosIraqi writer Inaam Kachachi was winner of the 2016 Prix de la Littérature Arabe; Shahla Ujayli was on the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist and won the 2017 Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story. Mohammed Al-Maazuz is a previous winner of the Moroccan Book Prize, and at least two of Kafa Al-Zou’bi‘s previous novels have appeared in Russian; her fourth novel, Go Back Home, Khalil (2009), was published only in Russian.

Four of the six shortlisted writers have books available in English translation, although Kachachi’s The American Granddaughter is out of print. Ujayli’s novel A Sky So Close to Us recently appeared in Michelle Hartman’s translation. Three of Hoda Barakat’s novels are available in English translation, and Adel Esmat’s Tales of Yusuf Tadros was translated by Mandy McClure.

The full shortlist:

Hoda Barakat The Night Post Lebanon Dar al-Adab


Adel Esmat The Commandments Egypt Kotob Khan


Inaam Kachachi The Outcast Iraq Dar al-Jadid


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


Shahla Ujayli Summer with the Enemy Syria Difaf Publishing


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

Organizers note that this is the first year an IPAF shortlist — usually dominated by men — has a majority of titles by women. When the 2019 longlist emerged, some commentators suggested the existence of so many books by women suggested organizers had imposed a quota. Shortlisted author Shahla Ujayli said over email that the idea was ridiculous: “In general, we can’t put all of women’s writing into a single basket, just as we can’t put all men’s writing into a single basket — there are too many of them to read! The question is about technique rather than gender, and I think the quota is a ridiculous joke!”

This year’s judging chair Charafdin Majdolin said that the six novels were “very different in their subject matter, styles and aesthetic choices. They can be described as novels about family, memory, disappointment, exile and migration and they reflect varied local environments, coming as they do from different Arabic countries.”

In addition to Majdolin, the other 2019 judges are Saudi poet Fowziyah AbuKhalid, Jordanian poet-activist Zulaikha Aburisha, Chinese academic and translator Zhang HongYi, and Lebanese literary critic Latif Zeitouni.

Throughout this week, IPAF organizers are hosting a series of events across Palestine, including a reception this evening in Jerusalem and panel discussions with the judges. There will be a public event at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah on Wednesday, and a student event at Bethlehem University on Thursday.

Also read:

Hoda Barakat’s ‘The Night Post’

Inaam Kachachi: ‘What Hurts My People Hurts Me’

Tomorrow: Five questions with Shahla Ujayli.