International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist: Confronting History

International Prize for Arabic Fiction judges announced the 2020 shortlist at a news event today in Marrakesh:

The six-book shortlist includes one previous shortlistee (the acclaimed Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy) and a previous winner, Youssef Ziedan, who took the 2009 prize for his novel Azazeelwhich was later translated to English by Humphrey Davies.

The full six-book shortlist is:

The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui

The Russian Quarter by Khalil Alrez

The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy

Firewood of Sarajevo by Said Khatibi

The Tank by Alia Mamdouh

Fardeqan – the Detention of the Great Sheikh by Youssef Ziedan

Shortlisted author Abdelouahab Aissaoui, interviewed today on ArabLit, is one of two Algerian writers on the list. He notes that no Algerian has ever won the prize, but that he has hopes for this year:

…the focus on quality has increased, not only in terms of narrative quality, but also with regards to the quality of printing and of production methods. The Arabic Booker, as it is called, has formal conditions for the participating novel, and the initial stage is the reception of submitted texts. In this respect, I learned that some works had previously been rejected because of the poor printing quality of the book, or because of the many typos within the text. Now local publishers have the ability to compete outside Algeria on two levels, on the artistic and the production level. I am optimistic about the Arabic Booker this year. I hope it will be an Algerian win, especially since no Algerian has ever won it.

In a prepared statement, Muhsin al-Musawi, chair of the 2020 judging panel, said that the novels had “escaped the grip of traditionalism which often accompanies the writing of fiction.” He noted that most could be labeled historical fiction, “but they do not merely retell this history or current reality. Rather, they confront it in all its harshness to inspire in the reader questions about the destiny of the Arabic individual.”

The other four judges are Lebanese critic Pierre Abi Saab, Egyptian broadcaster Reem Magued, Russian academic-translator Viktoria Zarytovskaya, and Algerian novelist Amin Zaoui.

The winner will be announced April 14, 2020 in Abu Dhabi.

Read more on and from the shortlisted authors:

Abdelouahab Aissaoui on Publishing Realities, Challenges, and Dreams in Algeria

Jabbour Douaihy on ‘The King of India’

Said Khatibi on the Entanglements of Story in Bosnia and Algeria

‘Firewood of Sarajevo’: Testimonies against Amnesia and for an Alternative History

New Fiction: An Excerpt from Alia Mamdouh’s IPAF-longlisted ‘The Tank’

The shortlisted authors’ novels already in English translation:

Jabbour Douaihy’s Autumn Equinox ,tr. Nay Hannawi, won the Arkansas Arabic Translation Award.

Douaihy’s June Rain was shortlisted for the inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in 2008 and published in English, in Paula Haydar’s translation, in 2014.

Douaihy’s The American Neighborhood, also translated by Haydar, was longlisted for the IPAF in 2015.

Douaihy’s Printed in Beirut was, similarly, translated by Haydar.

Douaihy’s novel The Vagrant, shortlisted for the IPAF 2012, is not in English. However, a translation by Stephanie Dujols won the 2013 ‘Prix de la Jeune Litterature Arabe.’

Said Khatibi’s Forty Years Waiting for Isabelle was translated by “Emisia Creative.”

Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel was translated by Jonathan Wright.

Alia Mamdouh’s Naphtalene: A Novel of Baghdad was translated by Peter Theroux.

Mamdouh’s Mothballs was also translated by Theroux.

Mamdouh’s The Loved Ones was translated by Marilyn Booth