There are nine Africans from five countries on the longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2020 announced on December 17, 2019.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction, given to a novel in Arabic that judges consider to be the best of that year, is considered to be the most prestigious and important literary prize in the Arab world today. The prize, launched in 2007, is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. 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 longlist for 2019 was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Muhsin al-Musawi, an Iraqi literary critic and Professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature, Comparative and Cultural Studies at Columbia University. Judging alongside al-Musawi are Pierre Abi Saab, a Lebanese critic, journalist and co-founder of the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper; Reem Magued, an Eqyptian broadcaster, television journalist and trainer in journalism and media; Amin Zaoui, an Algerian novelist who writes in both Arabic and French, and Professor of Comparative Literature and Contemporary Thought at the Central University of Algiers; and Viktoria Zarytovskaya, a Russian academic, researcher and translator.
The full longlist, with the Africans bolded, is;
- Rasha Adly, The Last Days of the Pasha, Egypt, Arab Scientific Publishers.
- Abdelouahab Aissaoui, The Spartan Court, Algeria, Dar Min.
- Magbool Al-Alawi, Seferberlik, Saudi Arabia, Dar Al Saqi.
- Khalil Alrez, The Russian Quarter, Syria, Difaf Publishing.
- Hassan Aourid, Al-Mutanabbi’s Rabat, Morocco, Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi.
- Salim Barakat, What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady?, Syria, Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing.
- Jabbour Douaihy, The King of India, Lebanon, Dar Al Saqi.
- Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab, The Golden Hamam, Tunisia, Mesaa.
- Aisha Ibrahim, The War of the Gazelle, Libya, Tripoli Scientific Bookshop.
- Azhar Jerjis, Sleeping in the Cherry Field, Iraq, Dar al-Rafidain.
- Samir Kacimi, The Stairs of Trolar, Algeria, Editions Barzakh.
- Khaled Khalifa, No-one Prayed Over Their Graves, Syria, Hachette Antoine/Naufal.
- Said Khatibi, Firewood of Sarajevo, Algeria, Al-Ikhtilef.
- Alia Mamdouh, The Tank, Iraq, Al-Mutawassit.
- Bachir Mefti, The Mingling of the Seasons, Algeria Al-Ikhtilef
- Youssef Ziedan, Fardeqan – the Detention of the Great Sheikh, Egypt, Dar al-Shorouk
Muhsin al-Musawi, 2020 Chair of the judges said: “This longlist is varied in subject matter, covering war and peace, history, issues of marginalised and minority groups and the relationship with the Other. It is also concerned with the crisis of the individual and of humanity as a whole, while strongly inclined to experimentation with the narrative form. The submitted novels were highly competitive in their subject matter and style, so in choosing this longlist the judging panel concentrated on the craftsmanship of the novel, the variety of its approaches and the richness of its stylistic, intellectual and thematic substance.”
Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “This year’s longlist delves into the most abiding Arab concerns in our times. Through these works we learn of how the past animates the present, but we do so in a way that reveals the universality of this historical sweep. The longlist offers penetrating insights into the suffering and destruction visited upon the Arab city by the machinery of war and the exigencies of poverty, social degradation and political tyranny. The longlist is dominated by North African writers, while including a good mix of established and emerging writers; this mix is an omen of continuity in the ascendant march of the novel in modern Arabic literature.”
The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced at a press conference in Morocco on 4 February 2020. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on 14 April 2020, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.