Arabic Booker announces six shortlisted novels for the 2021 Prize

Mohammed Saad , Monday 29 Mar 2021

Each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000

6 shortlisted novel

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), known as the Arabic Booker, has revealed on Monday, 29 March, the shortlist for its 2021 prize, including six novels.

The six shortlisted novels are: he Eye of Hammurabi by Abdulatif Ould Abdullah; Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper by Jalal Bargas; The Calamity of the Nobility by Amira Ghenim; The Bird Tattoo by Dunya Mikhail; File 42 by Abdel-Majid Sebbata and Longing for the Woman Next Door by Habib Selmi.

Each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000.

The shortlist was revealed by this year’s head of the jury panel Chawki Bazih at an online event hosted on the prize’s Facebook page.

Bazih made the announcement in a live online press conference attended by Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of trustees, and  members of the jury panel.

The jury panel includes Mohammed Ait Hanna, a Moroccan writer, translator, and lecturer of philosophy at the Regional Centre for Teaching Careers and Training in Casablanca; Safa Jubran, a lecturer of Arabic language and modern literature at the University of San Paolo in Brazil; Ali Al-Muqri, a Yemeni writer twice longlisted for the IPAF in 2009 and 2011 respectively; and Ayesha Sultan, an Emirati author, journalist, founding director of Warrak Publishing House and vice president of the Emirates Writers Union.

The shortlisted authors for the IPAF’s 14th edition range in age from 31 to 70 and represent Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Collectively, the writers address important issues facing the Arab world today, including narratives exploring crimes committed against humanity amidst war and conflict, to the importance of one’s homeland, relationships, memory, and identity. The shortlist also highlights the enduring power of literature for both author and reader.

Those on the 2021 shortlist who have been recognised by the IPAF in previous years include Jalal Bargas, longlisted in 2019 for Women of the Five Senses; and Habib Selmi, who was shortlisted in 2009 for The Scents of Marie-Claire and again in 2012 for The Women of Al-Basatin.

The 2021 shortlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is as follows:



Country of origin


Abdulatif Ould Abdullah

The Eye of Hammurabi


Dar Mim

Jalal Bargas

Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper


The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing

Amira Ghenim

The Calamity of the Nobility


Dar Mesaa

Dunya Mikhail

The Bird Tattoo


Dar al-Rafidain

Abdel-Majid Sebbata

File 42


Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi

Habib Selmi

Longing for the Woman Next Door


Dar al-Adab


The IPAF is an annual literary prize for novels in Arabic. It is currently sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, under the umbrella of the Department of Culture and Tourism and has been mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

Bazih said: “The most obvious thing revealed by an in-depth examination of the six shortlisted novels is how the authors move away from the limits of the ego and are resourced by their ancestral roots, mother countries, and shared memory. Their subjects may not be entirely new, since the Arab present is an exact copy of its past. However, what makes these works unique is something other than their subjects. It is their stylistic richness and power to astonish readers, making them catch their breath; their well-constructed, suspenseful plots; their successful deployment of folklore and the collective imagination, and their deft use of language, both flowing and tight.”

The 2021 judges will come together in an online panel event to discuss this year's shortlist on 18 May, 2021. The event will be chaired by Moroccan writer, broadcaster, and prize trustee Yassin Adnan.

The winner of the 14th IPAF will be announced in an online ceremony on 25 May, 2021.

Short link: