Shortlist of 2023 ArabLit Story Prize Features ‘Myriad Mythologies’, the Will to Survive, and ‘Edgy, Memorable’ Voices

OCTOBER 30, 2023 — We are pleased to announce the three short fictions that this year’s judges have selected for the shortlist of the 2023 ArabLit Story Prize. All three shortlisted stories were written by authors from outside the centers of Arabic literature, bringing us new work in translation from Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The prize this year had fifty-six complete submissions from authors and translators all over the world. In a meeting that took place last month over Zoom and email, the three judges had a vibrant debate that ended in the selection of three stories. These stories are by Ibrahim al-Koni (translated by Dima El-Mouallem), Rachida el-Charni (translated by Anne Willborn), and Wajdi al-Ahdal (translated by William Hutchins).

Dima El-Mouallem is a returnee to a Story Prize shortlist, having previously been shortlisted for the 2021 prize, for her translation of Said Takieddine’s “Camphor Forestland” (غابة الكافور).

This year’s shortlisted stories — selected blindly, as in past years — were chosen by judges Shakir Mustafa, Muhammad El-Hajj, and Yasmine Zohdi. Stories are judged primarily on the quality of the translated work as a thing-in-itself, although translators must also submit the Arabic original, as this is a prize for translation, and not for loose adaptation nor for work written originally in English.

The shortlisted stories, listed alphabetically by author’s transliterated surname, are:

“A Day on Restaurants Street with Makki,” by Wajdi al-Ahdal, translated by William Hutchins.

Of this story, Judge Yasmine Zohdi said: “In the edgy, memorable voice of an unreliable narrator, the rich sensory atmosphere and diverse patrons of a busy street in San’aa come to life, creating a vibrant microcosm where the daily flux of the city and the protagonist’s inner turbulence intertwine. An immersive mixture of wisdom and delusion.”

“God Loves Me, Credo,” by Rachida el-Charni, translated by Anne Willborn.

Judge Muhammad Hajj said, of this story: “Smooth, lively and well-plotted, ‘God Loves Me, Credo’ builds nimbly, carving a gritty frieze of the tension between an overwhelming sense of defeat and the will to survive.”

“The Desert Also Keened,” by Ibrahim al-Koni, translated by Dima El-Mouallem.

Of this story, judge Shakir Mustafa said: “The story spins a myriad of mythologies about seemings and beings, and ends up shaking the illusions of a gilded but harmful iconography.”

The prize is $500 to the winner, split between author and translator(s), as well as publication on

The winner of the 2023 ArabLit Story Prize is set to be announced November 15, 2023, 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 a future issue of ArabLit Quarterly, along with the winner.

The prize is funded by ArabLit readers.