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International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist announced

“It has been announced that the shortlisted works for the 16th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) include “Highest Part of the Horizon” by Fatima Abdulhamid, “Drought” by Al-Sadiq Haj Ahmed, “The Exile of the Water Diviner” by Zahran Alqasmi, “Concerto Qurina Eduardo” by Najwa Binshatwan, “The Stone of Happiness” by Azher Jirjees, and “Days of the Shining Sun” by Miral al-Tahawy.

Two of the authors on the 2023 list have been shortlisted before: Najwa Binshatwan (in 2017 for The Slave Yards) and Miral al-Tahawy (in 2011 for Brooklyn Heights). Azher Jirjees was previously longlisted in 2020 for Sleeping in the Cherry Field. Fatima Abdulhamid, Al-Sadiq Haj Ahmed, and Zahran Alqasmi are recognised by the Prize for the first time.

Mohammed Achaari, Chair of the 2023 Judges, commented: The scope of the 2023 shortlisted novels is vibrant and varied. The Stone of Happiness shines a light on how children and the weak bear the burden of society disintegrating after war and sectarian struggles. The Exile of the Water Diviner focuses on water and its symbolism in the collective memory. Days of the Shining Sun explores migration and upheaval, through people trapped between the hardships of their places of origin and the violence of their places of exile. Concerto Qurina Eduardo is an intimate portrait of human struggle in the face of injustice and political despotism, where the hell of the present seems only to signal a hellish future. The Highest Part of the Heavens charts the terrors of death, and of love, and their constant intersections. Finally, Drought transports us to the world of the Sahara between southern Algeria and northern Mali, where drought, famine and tribalism mirror the brutal and fragile nature of the desert. The judges feel that through this multiplicity of voices and idiom, with contrasting styles, structure and narrative forms, the broad sweep which these stories comprise offers a dynamic snapshot of the contemporary Arabic novel.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: The shortlisted novels excavate the themes of marginality, alienation and dispersal in Arab life from different vantage points, interweaving them with nostalgia for the past in some cases, and the brutality of a failed political and social order in others. Exhibiting the ethnic richness and cultural diversity of Arab social life, the novels unfold in equally varied settings that amplify this range. The emergence of new voices and a strong gender mix are striking features of this list.

The six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 each, with $50,000 going to the winner announced on Sunday 21 May 2023 in Abu Dhabi.