The Intetrnational Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), announced Thursday, 16 February, the shortlist for the 2017 prize. The six shortlisted authors included Egyptian novelist Mohammed Abdel-Naby, for In the Spider's Chamber.
The list also includes Saudi novelist Mohammed Hasan Alwan, for A Small Death, Libyan novelist Najwa Binshatwan, for The Slaves' Pens, the Kuwaiti writer Ismail Fahd Ismail, for Al-Sabiliat, Lebanese renowned writer Elias Khoury, for Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam, and the Iraqi novelist Saad Mohammed Rahim for The Bookseller's Murder.
IPAF said in a press release that this year’s six novels showcase the best in contemporary Arabic literature, celebrating its rich heritage while tackling untold stories and addressing topical issues.
A Small Death sees the historical and spiritual adventures of Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi brought vividly to life in fiction for the first time while Al-Sabiliat focuses on a woman in southern Iraq who defies the military forces involved in the long war between Iraq and Iran. In the Spider's Chamber challenges taboos to give a voice to a marginalised group while The Slaves' Pens uncovers the history of slavery in Libya.
Children of the Ghetto – My Name is Adam is a new approach to the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, and the fate of the inhabitants of Lud. Finally, The Bookseller's Murder reveals the artistic, cultured and human dimension of Iraqi civilisation, in the face of destruction following the American occupation.
Mohammed Hasan Alwan is the only author previously shortlisted for the prize. That shortlisting was in 2013 for his novel The Beaver. He was also a participant in the first IPAF Nadwa in 2009 and a mentor in 2016. Three previously longlisted authors are shortlisted this year: Ismail Fahd Ismail who was longlisted in 2014 for The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend; Elias Khoury who was longlisted in 2013 for Sinalkul; and Mohammed Abdel Nabi who was longlisted in 2013 for The Return of the Sheikh.
The 2017 judging panel is made up of Sahar Khalifeh (chair), a Palestinian novelist; Saleh Almani, a Palestinian translator; Fatima Al-Haji, a Libyan academic, novelist and broadcaster; Sahar El-Mougy, an Egyptian novelist and academic; and Sophia Vasalou, a Greek academic and translator.
Sahar Khalifeh, the 2017 Chair of Judges, said: "The six novels chosen from the huge number (186) submitted to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction stand out for their brilliant artistic structure, development of characters and treatment of socially sensitive and daring subject matter. Some of them explore taboo areas, while others put their fingers on the pulse of critical situations in the complex Arab world of today and celebrate highlights of Arab heritage."
The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2017 will be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, 25 April 2017, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.