Record number of women on International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist

The shortlist includes a four female authors out of six

Lebanon's Hoda Barakat, author of The Night Mail. IPAF
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The shortlist for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has been announced and has the highest number of female authors to be shortlisted since the prize began.

Three of the four female writers have been listed before. Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi, who has been shortlisted twice in 2009 and 2014, has been recognised for her novel The Outcast. The youngest to be shortlisted is Syrian Shahla Ujayli, who made the top six authors in 2016, while Hoda Barakat, from Lebanon, was previously longlisted in 2013.

The other three authors on the list include Egyptian novelist Adel Esmat, Moroccan political anthropologist Mohammed Al-Maazuz and Jordanian writer Kafa Al-Zou’bi.

The novels were decided by a judging panel at the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem on February 5.

Charafdin Majdolin, Chair of the 2019 judging panel, said: “The six novels chosen are very different in their subject matter, styles and aesthetic choices. They can be described as novels about family, memory, disappointment, exile and migration and they reflect varied local environments, coming as they do from different Arabic countries.

“These novels convey deep, mature and powerful visions of the current Arab reality, while also employing brilliant narrative forms that will resonate with readers and professional critics alike.”

The IPAF began in 2008 in Abu Dhabi and aims to reward excellence in high quality contemporary Arabic creative writing.

Each shortlisted author will collect $10,000 (Dh37,000) and the winner will receive an additional prize of $50,000 (Dh184,000), one of the highest prizes in fiction.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on April 23 and have their book translated into English in order to encourage readership of Arab literature across the world.

Last year's winner was Ibrahim Nasrallah for The Second War of the Dog, a novel which was praised by judges for showing "a masterful vision of a dystopian future". The Jordanian-Palestinian author's book was set against the backdrop of an ISIS-style extremist group which has taken power in a nameless country.

While 2014's winner Frankenstein in Baghdad written by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi made the Man Booker International Longlist last year.

The six shortlisted authors and their books are:

The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)

The Commandments by Adel Esmat (Egypt)

The Outcast by Inaam Kachachi (Iraq)

What Sin Caused her to Die? by Mohammed Al-Maazuz (Morocco)

Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (Syria)

Cold White Sun by Kafa Al-Zou'bi (Jordan)