Lebanese writer Rabee Jaber, 42, has been announced as the winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for his novel The Druze of Belgrade. The announcement took place during the opening of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi.
The prize was launched in Abu Dhabi in April 2007 with an intention to address the limited international availability of high quality Arab fiction. The shortlisted finalists each receive $10,000, and the winner an additional $50,000. Authors can look forward to increased book sales both within the Arab world and internationally through translation.
The judges praised the novel for its powerful portrayal of the fragility of the human condition through the evocation of a past historical period in highly sensitive prose.
Georges Tarabichi, chair of the judges, commented: “After prolonged discussion, the panel of judges… eventually agreed to award the prize to The Druze of Belgrade by Rabee Jaber. Had the rules of the prize allowed there to be more than one winner, we would have nominated all six novels on the shortlist as prize winners.”
The 2011 award was divided between Moroccan Mohammed Achaari for The Arch and the Butterfly and Saudi writer Raja Alem for The Dove’s Necklace.
In 2010 it went to Saudi Abdo Khal for Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles, while the 2009 prize went to the novel Azazeel by Egyptian author Youssef Ziedan. The very first award in 2008 went to Egyptian author Bahaa Taher for his masterpiece Sunset Oasis.
Lebanese novelist and journalist Rabee Jaber was born in Beirut in 1972. He has been editor of Afaq, the weekly cultural supplement of Al-Hayat newspaper since 2001.
His first novel, Master of Darkness, won the Critics’ Choice Prize in 1992. He has since written 16 novels, including Black Tea, The Last House, Yousif Al-Inglizi, The Journey of the Granadan (published in German in 2005), Berytus: A City Beneath the Earth (published in French in 2009) and America, which was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2010.