12 March 08 | Chad W. Post

Although the official announcement isn’t available at the IPAF website (which is surprising and disappointing), it’s being reported elsewhere that Egyptian novelist Baha Taher has received the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction for the novel Sunset Oasis.

At least there’s a bit of info about the author and book available on the official website. (Really, just a bit of info. I’m not even going to repeat my desire for 5 page samples . . . if they can’t even get the announcement of the winner online, odds are pretty solid that there’s not going to be any excerpts.):

Bahaa Taher was born in Giza (Greater Cairo) in 1935, to Upper Egyptian parents from the village of Karnak, Luxor. He holds postgraduate diplomas in History and Mass Media from Cairo University. He has published 14 books (6 novels, 4 short story collections, and 4 non-fiction works), as well as numerous translations from English and French.

Sunset Oasis (Publisher: Al Shorooq, Cairo, 2007)

Baha Taher delivers in this book a high quality fiction work, at both the aesthetic and value levels. And depending on the metaphor of the journey that crystallizes the existential crisis of a defeated man, he deals with many broad human questions.

All of the authors on the shortlist received $10,000 and Taher receives an additional $50,000 as the prize winner.

I think it would be fantastic if something like this led to greater exposure for Arabic literature, and, as can be seen from this quote in Lebanon’s Daily Star, the people involved have big hopes for the award:

“We are certain that this new prize will soon achieve the reputation and success of the Booker Prize itself,” remarked Jonathan Taylor, chair of the IPAF board of trustees and chair the Booker Prize Foundation. “We shall hope to carry the influence of new Arabic literature all over the world, in Arabic as well as in translation.”

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