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.
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .