Egyptian writer Ashraf El-Khamaisi, who was longlisted for the Arabic Booker prize twice in 2015 for his novel Sharp Turning and for his 2014 novel God's Land of Exile, declared on his Facebook page that he will not participate in the prize again, accusing the judging panel of being substandard and "not decent enough", nearly two weeks after the shortlist for 2015 was announced which did not include his name.
El-Khamaisi, who once described himself as "The God of Narration", used strong words to criticise his exclusion from the shortlist. He said that he will not participate in the prize again, since all the novels that were elevated to the shortlist were "artistically less" valuable than his novel and that the members of the judging panel, whose names were revealed with the long-list, were of "a substandard and not qualified to judge creative writing." He continued to say that the fact that his works were not chosen for the shortlist raises a lot of questions on how the judges are chosen to decide on a prize that is supposed to be prestigious.
"My writings fell in the hands of those who do not have the creative mind to understand the literature and who weren't decent enough to judge it. As a result I will not participate in such prizes again," he concluded.
This year's shortlist was announced on 13 February, and included Palestinian novelist Atef Abu Saif, Lebanese Jana Elhassan, Syrian Lina Huyan Elhassan, Tunisian writer Shukri al-Mabkhout, Moroccan writer Ahmed al-Madeeni and Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is awarded for prose fiction in Arabic and was first launched in April 2007 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority in the UAE.
Each of the six shortlisted finalists received $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.
The 2015 judges are Mourid Barghouti (Chair), an award-winning Palestinian poet and writer; Ayman A. El-Desouky, an Egyptian academic; Parween Habib, a Bahraini poet, critic, and media expert; Najim A. Kadhim, an Iraqi critic and academic; and Kaoru Yamamoto, a Japanese academic, translator and researcher.
The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2015 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on 6 May, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The Prize guarantees that all of the winners will have their works translated into English. Previous winners include: Bahaa Taher (2008), Youssef Ziedan (2009), Abdo Khal (2010), joint winners Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem (2011), Rabee Jaber (2012), Saud Alsanousi (2013) and Ahmed Saadawi (2014).