Amir Tag Elsir and Ibrahim Nasrallah shortlisted for Arabic Booker 2018 prize

Mohammed Saad , Wednesday 21 Feb 2018

This year's shortlist includes two debut novelists, one Saudi and one Iraqi

Covers of the Six Shortlisted Novels

A chair of judges responsible for selecting the recipient of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the so-called Arabic Booker) has announced the shortlist of writers for its 2018 prize, including Amir Tag Elsir of the Sudan, Palestinian Ibrahim Nasrallah of Jordan, Aziz Mohammed of Saudi Arabia, Shahad Al-Rawi of Iraq, Walid Shurafa of Palestine and Dima Wannous of Syria.

The shortlisted works were revealed by the 2018 chair of judges, Ibrahim Al-Saafin, during a press conference held at the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation in Amman, Jordan.

Two debut novelists, the youngest authors from the longlist – Saudi Arabian Aziz Mohammed and Iraqi Shahad Al-Rawi – made this year’s shortlist.

Al-Rawi’s Baghdad Clock has already been translated into English and will be published in June by Oneworld Publications.

Aziz Mohammed and Shahad Al-Rawi are competing with two previously shortlisted authors: Sudanese Amir Tag Elsir (2011, The Grub Hunter) and Palestinian/Jordanian Ibrahim Nasrallah (2009, Time of White Horses), who have also both served as mentors on the Prize’s Nadwa – an annual writing workshop for talented emerging writers.

Completing the list are Palestinian Walid Shurafa and Syrian Dima Wannous, who have been recognised by the panel for the first time.

Wannous’ The Frightened Ones is currently being translated into English, due for publication in 2019.

The 2018 shortlist, with author names in alphabetical order, is as follows: 



Country of origin


Amir Tag Elsir

Flowers in Flames


Dar Al-Saqi

Aziz Mohammed

The Critical Case of "K"


Saudi Arabia

Dar Tanweer, Lebanon

Ibrahim Nasrallah


The Second War of the Dog



Arab Scientific Publishers

Shahad Al-Rawi

Baghdad Clock 



Dar al-Hikma, London

Walid Shurafa

Heir of the Tombstones



Al Ahlia

Dima Wannous

The Frightened Ones



Dar al-Adab


This year's chair of judges, Ibrahim Al-Saafin, said, "The six novels on the shortlist delighted the judges with their fresh exploration of social, political and existentialist themes. Narrative techniques were varied, from the form of diary entries and a novel within a novel, to several authors taking inspiration from the fantasy genre. They allude to the challenging new realities of the Arab world, from Syria to Sudan, but transcend the factual and prosaic."

This year’s six novels, selected from the longlist of 16, and published between July 2016 and June 2017, display the best of contemporary Arabic literature. 

Flowers in Flames tells the story of women in Sudan who have become objects of pleasure under the rule of an extremist group, and in Baghdad Clock, a young Iraqi girl and her best friend watch their lives change beyond recognition in war-torn Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Heir of the Tombstones focuses on an Israeli artists’ village to explore the plight of the Palestinian people. 

The Critical Case of "K" takes the form of the diary of a frustrated writer inspired by Kafka, who finds out he has cancer, while The Frightened Ones features a novel about a woman dominated by fear, reflecting the mind-set of its narrator.

Finally, The Second War of the Dog is set in a future world to chart the transformation and corruption of a society driven by greed.

Alongside Al-Saafin, who is a Jordanian academic, critic, poet, novelist and playwright, the 2018 judges are: Inam Bioud, an Algerian academic, translator, novelist and poet; Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese-English writer and novelist; Mahmoud Shukair, a Palestinian short story writer and novelist; and Barbara Skubic, a Slovenian writer and translator.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2018 will be announced at a ceremony in the Fairmont Bab Al-Bahr in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 24 April, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

The six shortlisted finalists will each receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.

Last year’s winner was A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan.

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 sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

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