Four Culture coordinated the announcement of the shortlist for the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction on Wednesday 21st February. The announcement was made by a judging panel at a press conference at the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation in Amman, Jordan. Working with the Foundation and our team in the Gulf, we secured an audience of more than 30 journalists across print, online and broadcast.
The list, which for the first time featured two debut writers, was covered widely in English and Arabic media from BBC Arabic to Elle Arabia and The National to Sky News Arabia. Of particular interest to UK readers is the shortlisted debut novel The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi, which has already been translated into English by Luke Leafgren and will be published this May by Oneworld. Meanwhile, Dima Wannous’ The Frightened is being translated by Elisabeth Jaquette, due for publication in 2019.
To reflect on a decade of the prize, we helped organise an evening event for Jordan’s literary crowd. Discussing its impact, the current state of Arabic literature, and this year’s shortlist, it was moderated by ADSF’s Muwafaq Al Kilani and featured chair of trustees Yasir Suleiman; 2018 chair of judges Ibrahim Saafin; 2017 chair of judges Sahar Khalifa; and former IPAF shortlisted author and nadwa participant Shahla Ujayli.
The prize’s ongoing ambition is to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction and provide funding for English translation for its winners. This month saw the publication of 2014 winner Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad by Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US. The novel has been widely and positively reviewed, with its translation rights sold for a further 12 languages including Cantonese and Mandarin.
The prize is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).