Sixteen novels are in contention for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). The longlist for the prize, announced today, includes 13 male and three female authors from nine countries. The works were chosen from 128 entries, all published in Arabic between June 2018 and June 2019, with books from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia. Seven of the 16 longlisted books are from North Africa.
The Last Days of the Pasha by Rasha Adly (Egypt)
The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui (Algeria)
Seferberlik by Magbool Al-Alawi (Saudi Arabia)
The Russian Quarter by Khalil Alrez (Syria)
Al-Mutanabbi's Rabat by Hassan Aourid (Morocco)
What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady? by Salim Barakat (Syria)
The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)
The Golden Hamam by Mohammed Eissa al-Mu'adab (Tunisia)
The War of the Gazelle by Aisha Ibrahim (Libya)
Sleeping in the Cherry Field by Azhar Jerjis (Iraq)
The Stairs of Trolar by Samir Kacimi (Algeria)
No-one Prayed Over Their Graves by Khaled Khalifa (Syria)
Firewood of Sarajevo Said Khatibi (Algeria)
The Tank by Alia Mamdouh (Iraq)
The Mingling of the Seasons by Bachir Mefti (Algeria)
Fardeqan – the Detention of the Great Sheikh by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)
The list brings a first selection for Abdelouahab Aissaoui, Khalil Alrez, Hassan Aourid, Salim Barakat, Mohammed Eissa al-Mu'adab, Aisha Ibrahim, Azhar Jerjis, Said Khatibi and Alia Mamdouh.
The longlist covers an expanse of Arab history, from ancient Libya and medieval central Asia, to 19th century Egypt, mid-20th century in Syria and recent history in Iraq and Algeria. The works depict the destinies of entire cities such as Aleppo, Algiers and Rabat, and of individuals trying to live their lives in the midst of war and chaos.
The novels were selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Muhsin al-Musawi, an Iraqi literary critic and professor at Columbia University. Al Musawi said that the longlist featured works that addressed important issues facing the Arab world today.
"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," he said, adding that the submitted novels were highly competitive in their subject matter and style. "In choosing the longlist, we concentrated on the craftsmanship of the novel, and the richness of its stylistic, intellectual and thematic substance."
Six novels will be shortlisted at a press conference in Morocco on February 4, 2020. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on April 14, 2020, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The winner receives a $50,000 (Dh183,625) award money, in addition to the English translation of the book. Winning novels published in English include Mohammed Achaari's The Arch and the Butterfly, Raja Alem's The Dove's and Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad. Last year's winning book The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat is currently being translated into English and is due to be published in September 2020.
The IPAF is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. Now in its 13th iteration, the prize is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.