Abdellatif Laâbi, Sahar Khalifeh Finalists for 2020 Neustadt

Moroccan poet, memoirist, and translator Abdellatif Laâbi and Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh have both been named finalists for the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature:

Yesterday, World Literature Today announced the nine finalists for the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which was first awarded in 1970. The prize, which comes with a $50,000 purse, likens itself to a US-based Nobel Prize. The prize is unlike most other literary awards in that each judge nominates an individual writer, and all the judges decide amongst those selected candidates.

Goncourt-winning Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi — co-founder of the seminal journal Souffles — has a number of works in English translation, including Beyond the Barbed Wire: Selected Poemstr. Naffis-Sahely; The Bottom of the Jar, tr. Naffis-Sahely; The Rule of Barbarism: Pirogue Poets Seriestr. Naffis-Sahely; and In Praise of Defeat: Poems by Abdellatif Laabi, tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith.

Naguib Mahfouz Medal-winning Sahar Khalifeh’s Door to the Courtyard, or Bab as-Saha, is her most acclaimed work. A translation by Sawad Hussain is finally coming out in Spring 2020 from Seagull Books. You can find at least these five other novels by Khalifeh in English already: Of Noble Origins (trans. Aida Bamia, AUC Press), The Inheritance (trans. by Aida Bamia, AUC Press); Wild Thorns (trans. Trevor Legassick and Elizabeth Fernea, Interlink); The End of Spring (trans. Paula Haydar, Interlink); and The Image, the Icon and the Covenant (trans. by Aida Bamia, Interlink).

This year’s jurors are: Russian-born literary nonfiction writer Anna Badkhen; Kapka Kassabova, a native of Bulgaria and a writer of journeys and geographies; Philippine-American poet Joseph O. Legaspi; poet, translator and essayist Philip Metres; Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi American poet and essayist; poet and translator André Naffis-Sahely; Vi Khi Nao, whose work includes poetry, fiction, and film; Felipe Restrepo Pombo, a Colombian journalist, editor and author; and Katherena Vermette, a Métis poet and writer of adult and children’s literature.

The complete list of 2020 Neustadt finalists:

Emmanuel Carrère (France), nominated by judge Felipe Restrepo Pombo

Jorie Graham (United States), nominated by judge Dunya Mikhail

Jessica Hagedorn (Philippines / United States), nominated by judge Joseph Legaspi

Eduardo Halfón (Guatemala), nominated by judge Anna Badkhen

Ismail Kadare (Albania), nominated by judge Kapka Kassabova

Sahar Khalifeh (Palestine), nominated by judge Philip Metres

Abdellatif Laâbi (Morocco), nominated by judge André Naffis-Sahely

Lee Maracle (Canada), nominated by judge Katherena Vermette

Hoa Nguyen (Vietnam / United States), nominated by judge Vi Khi Nao

As @Read_WiT notes on Twitter, over the years, the vast majority of Neustadt finalists have been men; Sawad Hussain writes  that Khalifeh seems to be the first woman who writes in Arabic to have been nominated for the prize.


The winner of this year’s prize is set to be announced on October 16th at the 2019 Neustadt Lit Fest.