International Prize for Arabic Fiction


The “Arabic Booker,” so-called because of its relationship to the Man Booker empire, is the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). The IPAF was first given in 2008, and—while it’s hardly the only literary prize in the Arabic-speaking world, or even the biggest purse—it’s the one that’s captured world imagination, in part because of its excellent promotions team and in part because of its association with the Man Booker, and also because of its efforts toward transparency.

Each of the shortlisted six gets $10,000; the winner $50,000.

WHAT IS THE PRIZE ABOUT? WHAT ARE THE CRITICISMS? Read a Q&A with prize admin Fleur Montanaro.


IPAF organizers keep a tally here.


The longlist announcement was made on December 6. Sixteen titles were longlisted; the shortlist is set to be announced in Tunis on January 8.

Ave Maria, Sinan Antoon

Toya, Ashraf El-Ashmawi

The Kingdom of this Earth, Hoda Barakat

I, She and Other Women, Jana Elhassan

Jaffa Prepares Morning Coffee, Anwar Hamed

The Beaver, Mohammed Hassan Alwan

Our Master, Ibrahim Issa

The Birds of the Holiday Inn, Rabee Jaber

Sinalkul, Elias Khoury

Lolita’s Fingers, Waciny Laredj

The Return of the Sheikh, Mohammed Abdel Nabi

Lanterns of the King of Galilee, Ibrahim Nasrallah

The President’s Gardens, Muhsin al-Ramly

The Bamboo Stick, Saud Alsanousi

His Excellency the Minister, Hussein Al-Wad

The Goatherd, Amin Zaoui


Rabee Jaber’s Druze of Belgrade won the 2013 prize.

The shortlist announcement was made on January 11. The shortlisted novels were by Egyptians Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (Embrace at the Brooklyn Bridge) and Nasser Iraq (The Unemployed); Lebanese Jabbour Douaihy (The Vagrant) and Rabee Jaber (The Druze of Belgrade); Algerian Bashir Mufti (Toy of Fire); and Tunisian Habib Selmi (The Women of al-Basatin).

Three of the authors had been previously shortlisted for the prize—Douaihy, Jaber, and Selmi—and Choukri Fishere had been longlisted for his 2008 novel Intensive Care. 

More: Photo Outtakes from “Arabic Booker” Shortlist Announcement and ‘Premonitions’ of Revolution in Shortlist for ‘Arabic Booker’

Longlist: The major controversy so far is that there’s just one woman on the longlist. The longlist, which was announced Nov. 10 (full list here), includes:

Fadi Azzam’s Sarmada

Habib Selmi’s The Women’s Orchards

Ezzedine Choukri Fishere’s ‘Embrace at the Brooklyn Bridge’

Hawra al-Nadawi’s ‘Under the Copenhagen Sky’

Jabbour Douaihy’s The Vagrant

Youssef Zeidan’s ‘The Nabatean’

Bashir Mufti’s Toy of Fire

Rabee Jaber’s ‘The Druze of Belgrade’ 

Nasser Iraq’s The Unemployed

Sharbel Qatan’s ‘Suitcases of Memory’ 


The co-winners were announced March 14: Raja Alem’s The Doves’ Necklace and Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly.

The shortlist was announced Dec. 9. (Yes, there has been plenty of controversy this year as well; could a woman possibly win; why the current and former Moroccan Minister of Culture?; are the judges really independent?; etc.) Anyhow, the shortlist:

Miral al-Tahawy, for her Brooklyn Heights

Bensalam Himmich,  for My Tormentor

Raja Alem for The Doves’ Necklace

Mohammad Achaari for The Arch and the Butterfly

Khaled al-Berry for Middle Eastern Dance

Amir Taj Al-Sir f or his The Hunter of the Chrysalises

The longlist was out in the fall, and I profiled each of the 16 authors. The shortlist will be announced Dec. 9.

Egyptian Miral al-Tahawy, longlisted for her Brooklyn Heights

Bensalam Himmich,  for My Tormentor

Fawaz Haddad, for God’s Soldiers

Khairy Shalaby, for Istasia

Raja Alem for The Doves’ Necklace

Renee Hayek for A Short Life

Waciny Laredj for The Andalucian House

Maha Hassan for Secret Rope

Mohammad Achaari for The Arch and the Butterfly

Maqbul Moussa Al-Alawi for Turmoil in Jeddah

Khaled al-Berry for Middle Eastern Dance

Razan Naim al-Maghrabi for Women of Wind

Fatin al-Murr for Common Sins

Ibtisam Teressy for her Eye of the Sun

Amir Taj Al-Sir f or his The Hunter of the Chrysalises


The 2010 winner, announced March 2, was Saudi author Abdo Khal.

The 2009-2010 longlist came out in November,  featuring 16 books culled from a list of 115 eligible submissions.

On December 15, at the Beirut (Arab) Book Fair,  the shortlist of six was announced: Mansoura Ez Eldin’s Beyond Paradise (more about Ez Eldin) , Muhammad Al Mansi Qindeel’s A Cloudy Day on the West Side (more about Al Mansi Qindeel), Rabee Jabir’s America (more about Jabir), Abdo Khal’s She Throws Sparks (more about Abdo Khal), Raba’i Madhoun’s The Lady From Tel Aviv (more about Madhoun), and Jamal Naji’s When The Wolves Grow Old (more about Naji).

That same day, one of the judges—Dr. Shereen Abu el Naga—resigned from the panel, citing a lack of discussion between panelists.

Abu el Naga did not mention an gender issues. However, this was the third year running that there was only one woman on the IPAF shortlist. Some commentators have made hay from this; Syrian writer Abeer Esber responds that, in fact, it’s easier for Arab women to publish.

There’s also a good deal more controversy (and conspiracy theory) in it: accusations and counter-accusations galore.

Just before the prize announcement, the IPAF organizers put out a “book of excerpts,” featuring the six shortlisted authors. I review the excerpts here.

The prize was given March 2, 2010, the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.

Forthcoming reviews: Shortlister Mansoura Ezz Eldin’s Maryam’s Maze; shortlister Mohamed Mansi Qandil’s Moon over Samarqand (in next edition of The Baltimore Review).


The 2009 prize was awarded to Yousef Ziedan’s Azazeel, which probably won’t be out from Atlantic Books until August 2011. Three of the shortlisted books are out in English: Mohamed El-Bistatie’s Hunger (AUC Press 2008), Inaam Kachachi’s The American Granddaughter (Bloomsbury Qatar 2010) and Habib Selmi’s Scent of a Woman (AUC Press 2010).

You can read reviews of Fawwaz Haddad’s The Unfaithful Translator, but I’ve seen nothing of its availability in English. Also nil about Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Time of White Horses.


This was the first year a prize was awarded, and it went to Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis. The shortlisted six also included Mekkawi Said’s Swan Song, May Menassa’s Walking in the Dust, Khaled Khalifa’s In Praise of Hatred, Jabbour Douaihy’s June Rain, and Elias Farkouh’s The Land of the Purgatory.

Said’s Cairo Swan Song is out in English (AUC Press 2009), as is Taher’s Sunset Oasis. Jabbour Douaihy’s June Rain should be out soon (next year?) from Bloomsbury Qatar.

Other very notable books from 2007 that somehow didn’t make the shortlist: Sonallah Ibrahim’s Al-Talossos (Stealth) and Elias Khoury’s Ka’anaha Nae’ma (As If She Were Sleeping).

Reviews: Sunset Oasis and Cairo Swan Song.


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  3. Husam Wafaei
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    Where can I buy a copy of Tayeb Salih’s SEASON OF MIGRATION TO THE NORTH–in the original Arabic? Thank you.


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