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.
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .