11 January 12 | Chad W. Post

The shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (better know as the Arabic Booker) was announced earlier today. According to Chair of Judges, Georges Tarabichi,

In these novels the authors’ show an innovative use of new styles to describe the social and historical variety of the Arab world, as well as giving premonitions of the current peoples’ movements, displayed by the concentration on corruption and tyranny formerly prevalent in the Arab world.

You can find the full longlist by clicking here, and here are the six finalists (all descriptions from the official press release):

  • The Vagrant by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)

The Vagrant provides a realistic, engaging portrayal of the Lebanese civil war through the eyes of a young man who finds himself uprooted by the conflict. The hero represents the crisis of the Lebanese individual imposed upon by a sectarian reality. We follow his struggle to belong as he faces unfamiliar situations and conflicts in a society that considers him an outsider.

  • Embrace on the Brooklyn Bridge by Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (Egypt)

Embrace on the Brooklyn Bridge is a novel about alienation in its various forms and senses: the hero who doesn’t belong; his second wife, torn between professional ambition and a desperation to give her husband the impression she belongs in his world; his son, with whom he has limited communication; his granddaughter, uncertain where she belongs, and his Egyptian friend, who discovers that neither his children nor his Cuban-American-Lebanese wife belong to his world. All these characters are linked by their relationship with the protagonist, who draws them together by inviting them to his granddaughter’s birthday party, at which he intends to convey some sad news.

  • The Druze of Belgrade by Rabee Jaber (Lebanon)

After the 1860 civil war in Mount Lebanon, a number of fighters from the religious Druze community are forced into exile, travelling by sea to the fortress of Belgrade on the boundary of the Ottoman Empire. In exchange for the freedom of a fellow fighter, they take with them a Christian man from Beirut called Hana Yaaqub; an unfortunate egg seller who happens to be sitting at the port. The Druze of Belgrade follows their adventures in the Balkans, as they struggle to stay alive.

  • The Unemployed by Nasser Iraq (Egypt)

The Unemployed tells the story of a young, educated Egyptian man from a middle-class family who, like so many others, is forced to look for work in Dubai due to the lack of opportunity in Cairo. In Dubai, he discovers an astonishing world filled with people of all nationalities and he experiences mixed treatment from his friends, relations and acquaintances. And then, just as he falls in love with an Egyptian girl, he finds himself imprisoned for the murder of a Russian prostitute . . .

  • Toy of Fire by Bashir Mufti (Algeria)

Toy of Fire is the story of a meeting between the novelist, Bashir Mufti, and a mysterious character called Rada Shawish, who presents Mufti with a manuscript containing his autobiography. Shawish’s goal in life has always been not to turn out like his father, who ran an underground cell in the seventies and committed suicide in the eighties. However, circumstances have driven him to follow in his father’s footsteps, resulting in him becoming a leading member of a secret group of his own.

  • The Women of Al-Basatin by Habib Selmi (Tunisia)

The Women of Al-Basatin is an intimate portrayal of the daily lives of a modest family living in the Al-Basatin district of Tunis in Tunisia. Through the stories of this small matriarchal environment, we observe the contradictions of the wider Tunisian society, exposing a world in flux between burdensome religious traditions and a troubled modernity.

No way to really make any predictions based on this smidgen of information, but I think The Vagrant will win, although Toy of Fire and The Unemployed also sound pretty interesting . . .

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