Shortlist of 2022 ArabLit Story Prize Features Dark Humor, Rupturing Selves, & Beautifully Flowing Long Sentences

NOVEMBER 15, 2022 — We at ArabLit are delighted to announce that this year’s judges have selected four stories for the shortlist of the 2022 ArabLit Story Prize, by four writers from four countries: Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Libya.

The prize this year had thirty-nine complete submissions from authors and translators all over the world. In a meeting that took place over Zoom and email, the three judges debated and selected four stories. They were by Belal Fadi (translated by James Scanlan), Abbas Baydoun (translated by Lily Sadowsky), Luqman Derky (translated by Daniel Behar), and Hisham Ali Almuqouz (translated by the author).

Three of the authors are new to the list; Belal Fadl made our 2020 shortlist for his hilarious “As Per Job Description.” All four translators are shortlisted for the first time.

This year’s shortlisted stories — selected blindly, as in past years — were chosen by judges Dena Afrasiabi, Yasmeen Hanoosh, and Perween Richards.

The shortlisted stories, alphabetized by author’s surname, are:

“The Age That Was” (العمر الذي كان), by Hisham Ali Almuqouz, self-translated

Hisham Ali Almuqouz is a Libyan short-story writer and novelist.

Judge Yasmeen Hanoosh said, of this story, that: “In his short and wistful self-translated ‘The Age That Was’ Hisham Ali Almuqouz maps out the melancholy internal world of a retired petroleum geologist as he is struck by the realization of having missed out on his kids’ childhood while building a career in a distant oil-rich desert—a career that, his internal monologue reveals, enabled him to provide for his family while at the same time cast him outside of the day-to-day lives of his loved ones.” 

“Not My Voice” (صوتي لا يشبهني), by Abbas Baydoun, tr. Lily Sadowsky

Abbas Baydoun is a Lebanese poet, novelist, and journalist. Born in 1945, near Tyre, he is widely considered one of the Arab world’s most influential literary voices. His works—spanning styles and genres—have been translated into numerous languages, including English, French, German, and Italian. With a BA in Arabic literature from the Lebanese University in Beirut and a maîtrise in Islamic Studies from the Sorbonne in Paris, Baydoun has been engaged variously as a political activist, school teacher, full-time poet, and since 1997, the cultural editor for the daily newspaper as-Safir.

Lily Sadowsky is an editorial assistant and translator from Los Angeles, CA. She holds a BA in mathematics and classical languages from Macalester College and an MA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Chicago. Her work has appeared at the Bila Hudood: Arabic Literature Everywhere festival (2021), as well as in The Markaz Review (March 2022) and ArabLit Quarterly (Summer 2022). 

Judge Dena Alfrasaibi said, of this story: “With a singular narrative voice and prose that crackles and sings, this story cleverly examines the ways in which we use language and voice to negotiate new identities in the wake of geographic  displacement, showing—in just a few pages—how the relationship between displacement, self, and language can be at once a site of creative possibility, a ‘chorus of discord’ and a source of dizzying alienation, a rupture in which self and voice become “Frankenstein and his monster.”

“Timur King of Moscow” (تيمور ملك موسكو), by Luqman Derky, tr. Daniel Behar

Luqman Derky (1966-) is a Kurdish-Syrian poet, actor, dissident blogger, and cultural organizer from the town of Darbasiya on the Turkish-Syrian border. He now lives between France and Germany. Derky was a member of the University of Aleppo Literary Forum. A volume of his collected poems appeared in 2006 with Dar Nainawa press.

Daniel Behar is a postdoctoral fellow for Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College. He works on modern and contemporary poetry from Syria. His poetry translations from Arabic have appeared in several literary journals.

Of the story, judge Dena Alfraisaibi said, “This is a fast-paced and darkly humorous story that shows how even a powerful mafia boss is not immune to the vulnerability and connection to be found in the language and music of one’s home culture.” “

“The Kid Sheikh” (!الشيخ العَيِّل), by Belal Fadl, tr. James Scanlan

Belal Fadl is an Egyptian journalist and screenwriter, born in Cairo in 1974. After graduating from the journalism department of the Media College of Cairo University, in 1995 he co-founded “Al-Dustur” newspaper, one of the most successful initiatives in journalism in Egypt in the 1990s. When it closed, he worked for several papers and TV channels. In 1999, he co-founded the “Cairo” newspaper issued by the Ministry of Culture and worked as a producer for the ART and MBC channels. He then worked as a screenwriter, writing scripts for a number of films and TV series, such as the series “People of Cairo” which won a prize for best Arab TV series, in 2010. He has published twenty books, including four short story collections and Um Mimi (2020), his first novel.

James Scanlan is an an Arabic-to-English translator from the UK based in Egypt.

Judge Perween Richards said, of the story” “‘The Kid Sheikh’ is a funny, swift take on the power of the truth in a world where even miracles must be sacrificed in order to stay safe. The translator captured perfectly the style of the original, a balance of long sentences flowing beautifully revealing the internal struggle of the characters, and the punch in the gut anger expressed in dialogue.  I thought the story captured the essence of what a short story ought to be perfectly; nothing overdone and everything in the right place.”


The winner of the 2022 ArabLit Story Prize is set to be announced December 1, 2022, and the winning story will be published online. The winner and translator will split $500 US.

The remaining shortlisted stories are set to appear in the Spring 2023 RAIN-themed issue of ArabLit Quarterly, along with the winner.

The prize is crowdfunded by ArabLit readers.