Seven women on longlist for 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Seven female authors included on a longlist featuring novelists from nine countries

The Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate by Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis
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The longlist for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction has been announced and includes seven female authors, the highest number in the prize’s history, and novels by authors from nine different countries, including Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq and Morocco.

Two of the authors on the list – Lebanon's May Menassa and Syria's Shahla Ujayli – have previously been shortlisted for the prize, which was won last year by Jordanian-Palestinian author Ibrahim Nasrallah for The Second War of the Dog; a further four, including Saudi Arabia's Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis and Algeria's Waciny Laredi, have previously been longlisted.

Menassa's longlisted novel, I Killed My Mother in Order to Live, tells the story of a young woman with autism, struggling to come to terms with a trauma from childhood, while Ujayli's Summer with the Enemy, set largely in Syria and Germany, explores the different lives of three generations of women.

I Killed My Mother to Live by May Menassa
I Killed My Mother to Live by May Menassa

The longlist also includes novels about the history of modern Iraq, the aftermath of the Lebanese civil war, and the journey of a group of Ethiopian Jews emigrating to Israel.

Why these books were picked

Chair of the judges, Moroccan critic Charafdin Majdolin, said: “The novels selected for the longlist this year arise from different experiences and stylistic choices, ranging from the historical to a contemplative kind of realism; from the autobiographical to the documentary; and from extended to economic narrative prose.

“This may be because the authors come from different generations, or from different parts of the Arab world. The novels in the last analysis reflect intersecting human pain and disappointment as well as common aspirations.”

Lebanon's Hoda Barakat, author of The Night Mail
Lebanon's Hoda Barakat, author of The Night Mail

Professor Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of trustees, added: “The novels chosen by the judges reflect the diversity of concerns that animate contemporary Arab society, even when these concerns are situated in a distant past or located outside the confines of the Arab world.

“Trauma, separation and disruption permeate these novels. The female voice in its multiple diversities resonates in these novels, as do the voices of different generations of Arab writers from different regions of the Arabic-speaking world.

“This is a strong list of established writers and new ones, and it attests to the continued rise of the novel as an uncontested platform of Arab fictional creativity.”

When the winner will be announced

The shortlist will be announced on February 5 and the winner will collect the award at a ceremony on April 23 in Abu Dhabi on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 (Dh37,000), while the winning author will collect a further $50,000 (Dh184,000).

The winning novel will also be translated into English, in line with the International Prize for Arabic Fiction's commitment to increasing the reach of Arabic fiction. Previous winning novels translated into English include Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust by Palestinian author Rabai al-Madhoun and Iraqi novelist Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad, which was subsequently shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize last year.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2019 longlist

Women Without Trace by Mohammed Abi Samra (Lebanon)

Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate by Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis (Saudi Arabia)

The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)

Women of the Five Senses by Jalal Bargas (Jordan)

The Commandments by Adel Esmat (Egypt)

Mohammed's Brothers by Maysalun Hadi (Iraq)

Black Foam Huji Jaber (Eritrea)

The Outcast by Inaam Kachachi (Iraq)

May – The Nights of Isis Copia by Waciny Laredj (Algeria)

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

I Killed My Mother to Live by May Menassa (Lebanon)

Western Mediterranean by Mbarek Rabi (Morocco)

Me and Haim by Habib Sayah (Algeria)

Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (Syria)

The Mexican Wife by Iman Yehia (Egypt)


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