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Life Style: International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces shortlist for $50,000 award

DUBAI: “Cairo Maquette” by Egyptian writer Tarek Imam, “Rose’s Diary” by Emirati author Reem Al-Kamali, “Dilshad” by author Bushra Khalfan from Oman, “The Prisoner of the Portuguese” by Morocco’s Mohsine Loukili, “The White Line of Night” by Kuwaiti novelist Khaled Nasrallah and “Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad” by Libyan writer Mohammed Al-Nu’as have been announced as the shortlisted works for the 15th International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The novelists are competing for a $50,000 award, and the winner will be revealed on May 22 during a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, which will also be streamed online.

The shortlist was chosen by five judges, which include Tunisian novelist and previous IPAF winner Shukri Mabkhout and Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, who picked from 19 longlisted works that were selected among 122 entries from nine countries across the Arab world.

“The six novels represent a strikingly diverse range of topics and forms around identity and freedom. Some of them took us on a journey to the past, inspired by the aspirations and struggles of people living in various regions across the Arab world,” Mabkhout, chair of the 2022 judges, said in a released statement.

“Other novelists on this shortlist portrayed freedom from various angles, such as the freedom of imagination to reconstruct a reality in which fantasy and truth intertwine, the freedom of expression and creativity in the face of visible or hidden oppression, and the freedom of individual identity,” he added.

Prof. Yasir Suleiman, chair of the board of trustees, called the shortlist of works “daring” and commended the authors for exploring “topics that are frowned upon” and adding “credence to the claim that the novel is a surrogate form of political and social expression.”

Collectively, the writers, who range in age from 34 to 52 and represent six Arab countries, address a range of important issues including identity, access to education, poverty, gender roles, fear, revenge and freedom of expression.

All six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 each.

Jordanian writer Jalal Barjas won the prize last year for his work “Notebooks of the Bookseller,” announced at an online ceremony in May. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the author also received funding toward securing an English translation of his novel.

Read on to discover the shortlisted books.

“Cairo Maquette”

Tarek Imam uses creative literary techniques to explore Egypt’s political, social and cultural transformation.

“Rose’s Diary”

The first novel by Emirati author Reem Al-Kamali is set in Dubai’s old neighborhood in the 1960s where Rose reveals her emotions in a secret diary.


Inspired by Omani history, Bushra Khalfan’s novel tells the story of one family’s hardships over three generations in early to mid 20th-century Oman.

“The Prisoner of the Portuguese”

Moroccan author Mohsine Loukili explores the relationship between a man and his jailor in a Portuguese prison on the coast of Morocco.

“The White Line of Night”

Kuwaiti writer Khaled Nasrallah is the youngest novelist to be shortlisted for his book that follows a man struggling with the banning of a controversial novel.

“Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad”

Libyan author Mohammed Al-Nu’as explores gender roles and ideas of masculinity in a remote village of his native country.


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