FEBRUARY 7, 2023 — Organizers announced yesterday that Moroccan author Anis Arafai had won the Multaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story for his collection “سيرك الحيوانات المتوهمة” (The Circus of Imaginary Beasts).
The $20,000 Kuwait-based prize — the region’s leading short-story award — is now in its fifth edition.
Arafai, who was born in Casablanca and studied linguistics, has long been an admired short-story writer. Jordanian writer Hisham Bustani has said of Arafai’s work that, “Anis Arafai is one of those needles that prick deep and hard with uncompromising art. His fiction is innovative, relentless, and an agitation to the imagination.”
A previous collection of Arafai’s, مصحة الدمى (Clinic for Dolls), was shortlisted for the 2016 Multaqa prize. The 2016 prize — the Multaqa debut — was won by Mazen Maarouf’s Jokes for the Gunmen, which went on to be longlisted for the International Booker in Jonathan Wright’s translation.
Other past winners include Shahla Ujayli, whose winning collection, Bed for the King’s Daughter, was translated to English by Sawad Hussain; Diaa Jubaili, who won the prize for his No Windmills in Basra, translated to English by Chip Rossetti; and Sheikha Hussein Heleiwi, for her Order C345.
According to Al Jazeera, Arafai said at the prize ceremony that, with this book, he wanted to find his own metaphor, “to find an image of life and existence in a circus, where the roles of man and beast are reversed.”
Each of the shortlisted authors also receives $5000. Shortlisted writers included previous winner Diaa Jubaili (for The Tiger Who Pretends to be Borges), Tunisian writer Al-Azhar Al-Zinad (for City of Mirrors), Egyptian writer Mohamed Rafie (for In Praise of Beings), and Jordanian writer Yousef Damra (for False Crow).
By Anis Arafai, in English translation:
“Minouche,” translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
“The Leg” translated by Emma Ramadan and Lotfi Nia