Voting is open for the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s 2019 “First Book Award,” a reader-driven celebration of new fiction:
Last year’s winner was Iraqi novelist Shahad al-Rawi’s The Baghdad Clock, translated by Luke Leafgren, while the 2014 prize went to Kuwaiti writer Mai al-Nakib’s debut short-story collection, The Hidden Light of Objects.
According to organizers, “every debut novelist and every overseas writer whose words are published in English for the first time is included in the voting,” along with a selection of young adult fiction.
This longlist includes Mazen Maarouf’s debut short-story collection, Jokes for the Gunmen. In Jonathan Wright’s translation, the collection was on the longlist for the 2019 Man Booker International. In its original Arabic, Jokes also won the first-ever Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story. The stories here — discussed in more detail in the Winter/Spring ArabLit Quarterly — build on the worlds of Maarouf’s poems, stretching and embodying them in surreal landscapes of war, illness, and grief turned inside-out.
The winner of the First Book Award is selected by voters from around the world; everyone who casts a vote is entered into a prize draw to win all the titles on the longlist. You can cast your vote on the festival’s website.
More of Maarouf’s work:
“DNA,” translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Six Poems, translated by Jasim Mohamed
“The Boxes,” in Beirut Noir, translated by Michelle Hartman.
“Portion of Jam,” translated by Jonathan Wright