Two Egyptian authors make 16-book longlist for 2020 Arab Booker

Mohammed Saad , Tuesday 17 Dec 2019

The longlist includes 13 male and three female authors from nine countries, ranging in age from 34 to 75

Egyptians authors Youssef Zaida(R) and Rasha Adly(L) (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The 16-novel longlist for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, commonly known as the Arab Booker, was unveiled on Tuesday.

Those in contention for the $50,000 award money include Egyptians Youssef Zaidan and Rasha Adly and Syrian authors Salim Barakat and Khaled Khalifa.

The novels selected by the judges were chosen from 128 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2018 and June 2019.

The prose fiction award is sponsored by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

The longlist includes 13 male and three female authors from nine countries, ranging in age from 34 to 75.

The novels included cover an expanse of Arab history from ancient Libya and medieval central Asia, to 19th century Egypt, mid-20th century Syria and recent history in Iraq and Algeria. The works depict the destinies of entire cities such as Aleppo, Algiers and Rabat, and of individuals trying to live their lives in the midst of war and chaos.

Those on the 2020 longlist who have been recognised by the award in previous years include Adly (longlisted in 2017 for her book Passion); Magbool Al-Alawi (longlisted  in 2011 with his debut novel Turmoil in Jeddah); Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted for the inaugural IPAF in 2008 with June Rain and in 2012 with The Vagrant, and longlisted in 2015 with The American Quarter); Samir Kacimi (longlisted for A Great Day to Die in 2010); Khaled Khalifa (twice-shortlisted, in 2008 with In Praise of Hatred and in 2014 with No Knives in the Kitchens of This City); Bachir Mefti (shortlisted for Toy of Fire in 2012) and Youssef Ziedan (winner of the prize in 2009 with Azazeel).

Authors who have been longlisted for the prize for the first time are Abdelouahab Aissaoui, Khalil Alrez, Hassan Aourid, Salim Barakat, Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab, Aisha Ibrahim, Azhar Jerjis, Said Khatibi and Alia Mamdouh.

The full 2020 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is as follows:




Country of origin


Rasha Adly

The Last Days of the Pasha


Arab Scientific Publishers

Abdelouahab Aissaoui

The Spartan Court


Dar Min

Magbool Al-Alawi


Saudi Arabia

Dar Al Saqi

Khalil Alrez

The Russian Quarter


Difaf Publishing

Hassan Aourid

Al-Mutanabbi’s Rabat


Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi

Salim Barakat

What About Rachel, the Jewish Lady?


Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing

Jabbour Douaihy

The King of India


Dar Al Saqi

Mohammed Eissa al-Mu’adab

The Golden Hamam



Aisha Ibrahim

The War of the Gazelle


Tripoli Scientific Bookshop

Azhar Jerjis

Sleeping in the Cherry Field


Dar al-Rafidain

Samir Kacimi

The Stairs of Trolar


Editions Barzakh

Khaled Khalifa

No-one Prayed Over Their Graves


Hachette Antoine/Naufal

Said Khatibi

Firewood of Sarajevo



Alia Mamdouh

The Tank



Bachir Mefti

The Mingling of the Seasons



Youssef Ziedan

Fardeqan – the Detention of the Great Sheikh


Dar al-Shorouk

The longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Muhsin al-Musawi, an Iraqi literary critic and professor of classical and modern Arabic literature, comparative and cultural studies at Columbia University.

Judging alongside al-Musawi were Pierre Abi Saab, a Lebanese critic, journalist and co-founder of the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper; Reem Magued, an Eqyptian broadcaster, television journalist and trainer in journalism and media; Amin Zaoui, an Algerian novelist who writes in both Arabic and French, and Professor of comparative literature and contemporary thought at the Central University of Algiers; and Viktoria Zarytovskaya, a Russian academic, researcher and translator of numerous works of Arabic literature into Russian including Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, winner of the prize in 2014.

Muhsin al-Musawi, 2020 Chair of the judges said: “This longlist is varied in subject matter, covering war and peace, history, issues of marginalised and minority groups and the relationship with the Other. It is also concerned with the crisis of the individual and of humanity as a whole, while strongly inclined to experimentation with the narrative form. The submitted novels were highly competitive in their subject matter and style, so in choosing this longlist the judging panel concentrated on the craftsmanship of the novel, the variety of its approaches and the richness of its stylistic, intellectual and thematic substance.”

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