10 November 11 | Chad W. Post

Seems like today is a day of award announcements . . . The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (aka, the Arab Booker) started five years ago as a way of bringing more international attention to great works of arabic literature. So far, they’ve given the award to five titles (two won last year), and all five—Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher, Azazel by Youssef Ziedan, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal, The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari, and The Doves’ Necklace by Raja Alem—have all found English language publishers. (A number of these books are coming out in 2012, which is why you might not have heard of them yet.)

The six shortlisted authors (which will be announced on December 7th), each receive $10K, and the winning author (announced March 27th, right before the start of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair), receives an additional $50K.

Thirteen novels are on this year’s longlist, including the new book from 2009 winner Youssef Ziedan, books from Jabbour Douaihy, Habib Slmi, and Rabee Jaber, who were all on the shortlist in the past, and Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, who was longlisted in 2009. (Interesting & encouraging to see some repeat authors on the list.)

There’s not a lot of info available about the books themselves on the Arabic Fiction site, but if I find descriptions somewhere else, I’ll put them up in a separate post. I’m sure there will be a lot more info about the six finalists, but for now, here’s a list of all the books in the running:

Sarmada by Fadi Azzam (Syria)

Paving the Sea by Rashid al-Daif (Lebanon)

The Vagrant by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)

Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (Egypt)

The Druze of Belgrade by Rabee Jaber (Lebanon)

The Unemployed by Nasr Iraq (Egypt)

Toy of Fire by Bashir Mufti (Algeria)

Under the Copenhagen Sky by Hawra al-Nadawi (Iraq/Denmark)

Suitcases of Memory by Sharbel Qata (Lebanon)

Nocturnal Creatures of Sadness by Mohamed al-Refai (Egypt)

The Women of al-Basatin by Habib Selmi (Tunisia)

The Amazing Journey of Khair al-Din ibn Zard by Ibrahim al-Zaarur (Jordan)

The Nabatean by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)

And here’s a quote from the 2012 Chair of Judges about the longlist: “The fifth cycle of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction takes place in exceptional circumstances, with many Arab uprisings against despotic regimes which have been entrenched in most regions of the Arab world for long decades. Without actually asserting that the novels nominated for this prize cycle directly prophesy the Arab Spring, we can say that many of them paint a picture of the stifling conditions prevalent before the explosion of uprisings. They take the reader into the underground world of the secret police and portray the thirst for freedom of many of their heroes and secondary characters, at the same time exposing the opportunism of those who co-operate with those secret forces.”

Can’t wait to find out more . . . And hopefully be able to read a few of these books.

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