International Prize for Arabic Fiction

The shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2021 was announced on March 29, 2021.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is the most prestigious and important literary prize in the Arab world. Its aim is to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage the readership of high-quality Arabic literature internationally through the translation and publication of winning and shortlisted novels in other major languages. Previous winners include Bahaa Taher (2008), Yusuf Zeydan (2009), Abdo Khal (2010), Mohammed Achaari (2011), Rabee Jaber (2012), Saud Alsanousi (2013), Ahmed Saadawi (2014), Shukri Mabkhout (2015), Rabai al-Madhoun (2016), Mohammed Hasan Alwan (2017), Ibrahim Nasrallah (2018), and Hoda Barakat (2019).

The 2021 panel judges is chaired by Lebanese poet and author Chawki Bazih. Judging alongside Bazih are Mohammed Ait Hanna, a Moroccan writer, translator and Professor of Philosophy at the Regional Centre for Teaching Careers and Training in Casablanca; Safa Jubran, a lecturer of Arabic Language and Modern Literature at the University of San Paolo in Brazil; Ali Al-Muqri, a Yemeni writer twice longlisted for IPAF in 2009 and 2011 respectively; and Ayesha Sultan, an Emirati author, journalist, founding director of Warrak Publishing House and Vice President of the Emirates Writers Union.

This panel announced the longlist with 16 books making the cut on March. The shortlist announced on Monday and those on it are;

Author, Title, Country of origin, Publisher

  • Abdulatif Ould Abdullah, The Eye of Hammurabi, Algeria, Dar Mim
  • Jalal Bargas, Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper, Jordan, The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing
  • Amira Ghenim, Calamity of the Nobility, Tunisia, Dar Mesaa
  • Dunya Mikhail, The Bird Tattoo, Iraq, Dar al-Rafidain
  • Abdelmeguid Sabata, File 42, Morocco, Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi
  • Habib Selmi, Longing for the Woman Next Door, Tunisia, Dar al-Adab

Chawki Bazih, Chair of the 2021 Judges, said: “The most obvious thing revealed by an in-depth examination of the six shortlisted novels is how the authors move away from the limits of the ego and are resourced by their ancestral roots, mother countries and shared memory. Their subjects may not be entirely new, since the Arab present is an exact copy of its past. However, what makes these works unique is something other than their subjects. It is their stylistic richness and power to astonish readers, making them catch their breath; their well-constructed, suspenseful plots; their successful deployment of folklore and the collective imagination, and their deft use of language, both flowing and tight.”

Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The novels in this shortlist enact complex and unsettling conversations between the past and the present to questions and notions of belonging, identity and the cacophonous rhythms of the homeland refracted through different registers, characters and story lines. Whether writing from home or from the diaspora, intra-culturally or inter-culturally, our writers coalesce on a vision of the contemporary Arab world which, in spite of its geographic scatter, seems to display troubling philosophical coherence. This is a strong shortlist that readers of the Arabic novel will remember and cherish for a long time.”

The winner of the award will be known on May 25, 2021.