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Algerian novelists dominate the longlist for the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) with four entries in the 16-strong list.  Morocco and Iraq have two entries each, and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen each have one

This is the 14the edition of the prize which is worth $50,000 to the winner.  Organisers say that the 16 novels “address important issues facing the Arab world today from suffering in Iraq to the spread of extremist organisations and the position of women in the Arab world. Crime novels also have a strong presence on the list this year, with narratives exploring crimes committed against the backdrop and aftermath of wars and conflicts. Further themes explored are human relationships, loyalty, betrayal and the power of literature across the Arabic world in cities from Aden and Amman to Casablanca, Oran and beyond”.

The full list is below:

Abdulatif Ould Abdullah, The Eye of Hammurabi, Algeria (Dar Mim)

Abdullah Albsais, M for Murderer: S for Sa’id, Kuwait (Riwayat)

Abdulla Al Ayaf, Hole to Heaven, Saudi Arabia, (Dar al-Rashm)

Jalal Bargas, Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper, Jordan (The Arabic Institute for Research and Publishing)

Abbas Baydoun, Boxes of Desire, Lebanon (Dar al-Ain)

Mansoura Ez Eldin, The Orchards of Basra, Egypt (Dar al-Shorouk)

Youssef Fadel, The Life of Butterflies, Morocco, (Al-Mutawassit)

Amira Ghenim, Calamity of the Nobility, Algeria, (Dar Mesaa)

Amara Lakhous, The Night Bird, Algeria (Manshurat al-Hibr)

Dunya Mikhail, The Bird Tattoo, Iraq (Dar al-Rafidain)

Sara al-Nams, J, Algeria (Dar al-Adab)

Hamed al-Nazir, Two Green Eyes, Sudan (Dar Tanweer – Lebanon)

Muhsin Al-Ramli, Daughter of the Tigris, Iraq (Dar al-Mada)

Abdelmeguid Sabata, File 42, Morocco (Al-Markez alThaqafi al-Arabi)

Habib Selmi, Longing for the Woman Next Door, Tunisia (Dar al-Adab)

Ahmed Zein, Fruit for the Crows, Yemen, (Al-Mutawassit)

There were 121 entries this year with the longlist chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by the Lebanese poet and author Chawki Bazih.  Joining Bazih are 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 AlMuqri, a Yemeni writer twice longlisted for 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.

In strong words Bazih said: “This abundant harvest of writing is the natural fruit of an unholy alliance between the Covid 19 epidemic – which closed all the doors to writers except language – and the epidemic of Arab regimes, fortified by every kind of corruption and oppression. This explosion of creativity is reflected in this year’s submissions and longlist, whose authors have written the true history of forgotten and marginalized people and places, and given voice to the weak and dispossessed. These 16 outstanding books from across the Arab world encompass a variety of styles and themes, from documentary-like narrative, to letters and ingenious use of the crime thriller genre, all penetrating the social and psychological fabric of Arab society. They have boldly exposed the many tragic faces of Arab reality and held regimes responsible for human rights abuse, the stealing of freedoms, persecution of women and their encouragement of violence, fundamentalism and wars.”

The six shortlisted titles will be announced on 29 March 2021 and the winner of the 14th IPAF will be announced on 25 May 2021.