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Arabic Booker shortlist announced, includes Egyptian Mohamed Rabie

The names of the shortlisted authors were revealed this morning in a press conference in Muscat and included one Egyptian writer, two Palestinians, one Syrian, one Lebanese, and a Moroccan novelist

Mohammed Saad , Tuesday 9 Feb 2016
Six shortlisted novels

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), also known as the Arabic Booker, has announced the six shortlisted authors for the 2016 prize along with the members of the judging panel.

The shortlist writers are Moroccan Tareq Bakari, Palestinian Rabai Al-Madhoun, Egyptian Mohamed Rabie, Palestinian Mahmoud Shukair, Syrian Shahla Ujayli, and Lebanese George Yaraq. The names were revealed by a judging panel chaired by Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban at a press conference hosted by The Cultural Club in Muscat, Oman.

Here is the full 2016 shortlist:







Country of origin






Tareq Bakari




Dar al-Adab


Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba


Rabai Al-Madhoun




Maktabat Kul Shee






Mohamed Rabie




Dar Tanweer, Lebanon


Praise for the Women of the Family


Mahmoud Shukair




Hachette Antoine


A Sky Close to Our House


Shahla Ujayli




Difaf Publications


The Guard of the Dead


George Yaraq




Difaf Publications


This year’s six novels are wide-ranging in subject matter, setting, and style. They include:

The story of a Moroccan intellectual searching for identity through a series of relationships (Numedia); a pioneering novel, written in four parts – each representing a concerto movement – on the subject of Palestinian life both in occupation and exile (Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba); a dystopian imagining of “the counter revolution" in Egypt, set in a nightmarish future where the police battle against a mysterious occupying power (Mercury); the story of the Al-Abd Al-Lat tribe, former Bedouins whose women play a vital role in integrating the family into urban Palestinian society during the 1950s (Praise for the Women of the Family); memories of Syria’s past and times of tolerance and simple pleasures from the viewpoint of a Syrian woman now living in exile in Amman after her town, Raqqa, is occupied by ISIS (A Sky Close to Our House) and, finally, a new perspective on the Lebanese Civil War through the eyes of a hospital undertaker, whose former life as a mercenary puts his life in danger (The Guard of the Dead).

One previously shortlisted author, Rabai Al-Madhoun, makes the list. His novel The Lady of Tel Aviv was shortlisted in 2010 and has been translated into English by Telegram Books. One debut novel, Numedia, also makes the list.

Two of the shortlisted authors have participated in the IPAF nadwa, Mohamed Rabie in 2012 and Shahla Ujayli in 2014. Ujayli worked on what is now the fifth chapter of her shortlisted book, A Sky Close to Our House, during the workshop and credits the experience with helping her move forward with the novel.

The 2016 judges are: Amina Thiban (Chair), an Emirati poet and academic specialising in literature; Sayyed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist and poet, who is currently editor of Al-Qahira newspaper; Mohammed Mechbal, a Moroccan academic and critic; Munir Mujić, a Bosnian academic, translator, and researcher and Abdo Wazen, a Lebanese poet, critic, and editor-in-chief of the cultural pages of Al-Hayat newspaper.

The novels selected were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months.

Amina Thiban, Chair, comments on the shortlist: “The process of choosing the shortlist was a pleasure and a challenge in equal measure. This year’s list features a number of experimental works, which try out new ground as they explore the experiences of the individual and the larger concerns of the Arab world, from personal issues to social, political and historical ones. The shortlisted novels are characterised by their innovative narrative forms and styles, which both question the heritage of the Arabic novel and address the tragedy of the present day Middle East.” 

This is the ninth year of the prize, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world.

Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, added: “This is a strong list, one that reflects the energy of the Arab literary scene as it marches forward to reach an ever-expanding readership. Through their subjects, well-crafted characters and technical ingenuity, these novels transcend their local sources to reach distant shores where the human spirit is the ultimate champion.”

IPAF will take place in further activity in Oman in late February, when 2013 winner Saud Alsanousi will take part in the Muscat International Book Fair and an event with students at Sultan Qaboos University.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, 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.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.

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