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The Abyssinian Rimbaud is by the Eritrean writer Haji Jabir and tells the untold story of a woman from the Harari people who was the companion of the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud during his final years in Ethiopia.  Rimbaud is silent about his lover in his letters to his mother and she remains an unknown figure.  The IPAF judges say Jabir’s novel gives her “a name, voice, history and a memory, and through her we view Rimbaud from the perspective of the Ethiopians”.

Jabir  has published five novels including Samrawit which won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2012.  His writing forms part of a fictional project concerned with highlighting the past and present of Eritrea.

Where is My Name? rescues another overlooked woman from literary obscurity and tells her story.  Qamour is the young Syrian girl who in the nineteenth century worked as a maid in the house of the British consul, Richard Francis Burton, translator of The Thousand and One Nights into English.  She accompanied him on his travels and he asked her to collect stories and eyewitness testimonies of the 1860 massacre of Damascus.  However, the subsequent book would be published without the name of its female author.  The IPAF judges say that Where Is My Name? “brings to life events and conflicts of the past, highlighting the sufferings of ordinary people and foreign, orientalist views of Arab cultural heritage and identity”.

There are 16 novels in contention for the 2022 prize, which will award $50,000 to the ultimate winner.  The prize is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and was originally mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

The longlisted authors hail from nine countries, with Egypt (4) and Syria (3) leading the way.  The longlist has been chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by Tunisian novelist, academic and previous IPAF winner (The Italian, 2015) Shukri Mabkhout. Joining him on the judging panel are Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, Lebanese writer and PEN International board member Iman Humaydan, Kuwaiti poet and critic Saadiah Mufarreh and Bulgarian academic and translator Baian Rayhanova.

The judges say: “This year’s novels cover an extensive range of topics, from the struggle for artists to survive while facing war and state persecution, to the relationship between East and West, freedom, motherhood and gender roles. While strongly affirming the cultural and religious diversity of Arab society, they condemn those who exploit sectarian conflicts to amass ill-gotten gains. The books give African and Arab women a voice, recounting the untold stories of two such women who lived in the shadow of famous Western writers. “

The six shortlisted titles will be chosen by the judges from the longlist and announced in March 2022.  The winner of the prize will be announced in May 2022

The full longlist is below:


Author Title Country of origin Publisher
Nizar Aghri In Search of Azar Syria Al Kotob Khan
Boumediene Belkebir The Alley of the Italians Algeria Al-Ikhtilef
Yaa’rab al-Eissa The White Minaret Syria Al-Mutawassit
Belal Fadl Mother of Mimi Egypt Dar al-Mada
Ezzedine Choukri Fishere Farah’s Story Egypt Dar al-Shorouk
Tarek Imam Cairo Maquette Egypt Al-Mutawassit
Haji Jabir The Abyssinian Rimbaud Eritrea Takween – Kuwait
Reem al-Kamali Rose’s Diary UAE Dar al-Adab
Bushra Khalfan Dilshad Oman Takween – Iraq
Mohsine Loukili The Prisoner of the Portuguese Morocco Dar Mim
Khaled Nasrallah The White Line of Night Kuwait Dar Al Saqi
Mohammed al-Nu’as Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad Libya Rashm
Rouchdi Redouane The Hungarian Algeria Dar al-Ain
Mona al-Shammari The Maids of the Shrine Kuwait Dar Al Saqi
Dima al-Shukr Where Is My Name? Syria Dar al-Adab
Mohamed Tawfik The Whisper of the Scorpion Egypt Dar al-Ain