by Susannah Tarbush
covers of the IPAF 2014 longlist
The longlist was chosen from156 entries from 18 countries, published in the past 12 months. The authors are from nine countries, with the highest number - three authors each - coming from Morocco, Iraq and Egypt.
last year's winner, Saud Alsanousi of Kuwait
For the second consecutive year a Kuwaiti writer, Ismail Fahd Ismail, makes the longlist; in 2013 Saud Alsanousi was the first-ever Kuwaiti to be longlisted for the prize, which he went on to win for The Bamboo Stalk. Kuwaiti fiction has been gaining a higher international profile recently, with the 47th issue of Banipal magazine of modern Arab literature having as its special focus Fiction from Kuwait. Kuwaiti novelist Taleb al-Rifai was chair of the IPAF judges in 2010.
IPAF 2014 longlist:
Clouds Over Alexandria
Ibrahim Abdelmeguid (Egyptian)
Love Stories on al-Asha Street
Badryah El-Bishr (Saudi Arabian)
The Bearer of the Purple Rose
Antoine Douaihy (Lebanese)
Arab Scientific Publishers
Amir Tag Elsir (Sudanese)
Arab Scientific Publishers
A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me
Youssef Fadel (Moroccan)
The Season of Pike Fishing
Ismail Ghazali (Moroccan)
Phoenix and the Faithful Friend
Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwaiti)
Arab Scientific Publishers
Inaam Kachachi (Iraqi)
No Knives in this City's Kitchens
Khaled Khalifa (Syrian)
God’s Land of Exile
Ashraf al-Khamaisi (Egyptian)
Ashes of the East: The Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness
Waciny Laredj (Algeria)
The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya
Abdelrahim Lahbibi (Moroccan)
The Blue Elephant
Ahmed Mourad (Egyptian)
The Edge of the Abyss
Ibrahim Nasrallah (Jordanian –Palestinian)
Arab Scientific Publishers
The Sad Night of Ali Baba
Abdel Khaliq al-Rikabi (Iraqi)
The Arab Institute for Research and Publishing
Frankenstein in Baghdad
Ahmed Saadawi (Iraqi)
There are only two women on the longlist: the Iraqi Inaam Kachachi and the Saudi Badryah El-Bishr. Since IPAF was first awarded in 2008 a woman has won only once: Saudi author Raja Alem, who was joint winner with Moroccan Mohammed Achaari in 2011 for her novel The Doves' Necklace.
As always the identity of the panel of five judges is being kept secret at this stage. Their names will only be announced, along with the IPAF 2014 shortlist, in Amman, Jordan, on Monday 10 February. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 29 April, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The still-anonymous chair of the judges said: "The longlisted titles are extremely varied, their diverse themes and styles reflecting the unquestionable richness of Arabic literature. Dominant themes include the socio-political problems currently experienced in many parts of the Arab world, especially the violence and displacement inflicted upon religious and ethnic minorities.
"Techniques and voices within the books range from the traditional narration characterised by an omniscient author to innovative techniques in style and narration, all of which breathes fresh life into the Arabic novel."
This is the seventh year of IPAF, recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, comments: "Seven years on, IPAF has gone from strength to strength. This year’s longlist contains a set of excellent works of fiction that testify to the quality of Arabic literature.
"The judges have toiled long and hard to produce this list which includes female and male novelists, young and more established writers and works that hail from different parts of the Arab world. It is enormously gratifying to witness the role IPAF has played in promoting Arabic fiction among Arab readers and international audiences through translation."
The longlist is studded with some of the best-known names in contemporary Arabic fiction including that of Syrian Khaled Khalifa whose longlisted work No Knives in this City's Kitchens won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in December. Kuwaiti Ismail Fahd Ismail, who turns 74 this year and is longlisted for Phoenix and the Faithful Friend, is regarded as the major pioneer of the Kuwaiti novel.
At the other end of the age-scale Egyptian Ahmed Mourad, who is 35 this year, and is longlisted for The Blue Elephant, is a filmmaker who used to work as Egyptian ex-President Husni Mubarak's personal photographer. He made his name with the 2007 bestselling political thriller Vertigo, published in English translation by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) in 2011.
Five longlistees have been previously nominated for IPAF. Amir Tag Elsir was shortlisted in 2011 for The Grub Hunter, Inaam Kachachi in 2009 for The American Granddaughter, Khaled Khalifa in 2008 for In Praise of Hatred, and Ibrahim Nasrallah in 2009 for Time of White Horses. Nasrallah was also longlisted in 2013 for Lanterns of the King of Galilee. Waciny Laredj was longlisted , in 2011 and 2013 for The Andalucian House and Lolita’s Fingers. Several of these writers have subsequently had their work published in English and other languages.
Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi has a previous connection to the prize, through having taken part in the IPAF Nadwa in 2012, under the tutelage of fellow-longlistees Inaam Kachachi and Amir Tag Elsir. The Nadwa, held in Abu Dhabi annually since November 2009, is aimed at emerging Arab writers. Two Arabic-English anthologies of new work produced during the Nadwa have been published so far.
IPAF has delivered on its aim of increasing the international reach of Arabic fiction. It has guaranteed English translations for all its winners: Bahaa Taher (2008, for Sunset Oasis), Youssef Ziedan (2009, Azazeel), Abdo Khal (2010, Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles), joint winners Mohammed Achaari and Raja Alem (2011, The Arch and the Butterfly, and The Doves' Necklace), Rabee Jaber (2012, The Druze of Belgrade) and Saud Alsanousi (2013, The Bamboo Stalk).
Taher’s Sunset Oasis was translated into English by the Hodder and Stoughton imprint Sceptre in 2009 and has gone on to be translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Ziedan’s Azazeel was published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012. English translations of Abdo Khal and Mohammed Achaari’s winning novels Throwing Sparks and The Arch and the Butterfly are due in Spring 2014, through Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. 2013 saw the publication of Spanish translations of Baha Taher's Sunset Oasis (El Oasis) and Rabee Jaber's The Druze of Belgrade (Los Drusos de Belgrado) by Madrid-based publisher Turner.
The English translation of Raja Alem's The Doves Necklace is to be published by Gerald Duckworth and Co in the UK, and Overlook Press in the US, but the publication date is understood to have been postponed from autumn 2014 as Adam Talib and Katharine Halls are still working on their joint translation.
The IPAF 2014 longlist press release put out by PR consultancy Four Colman Getty includes the following biographies and novel synopses:
Ibrahim Abdelmeguid is a writer from Alexandria, Egypt, born in 1946. He obtained a BA in Philosophy from Alexandria University in 1973 and left Alexandria to live in Cairo in 1975. He is the author of 14 novels and five short story collections. He also writes articles on literature and politics. His novels include: The Other Place (2004), The House of Jasmine (2005), The Hunter and the Doves (2006) and The Threshold of Pleasure (2007). He has also published a book about the Egyptian revolution, Days of Tahrir (2011). Four of his novels have been translated into French and five into English, as well as other languages. He received both the Egyptian State Prize for Literature and the Sawiris Prize for his novel In Every Week there is a Friday (2009). Some of his work has been adapted for television and film.
Clouds over Alexandria completes Ibrahim Abdelmeguid's trilogy about Alexandria, begun with No-one Sleeps in Alexandria followed by Birds of Amber. In these three novels - which can be read as a sequence or individually - Abdelmeguid describes life in the famous city, beginning in an era of openness to the wider world and ending at a time of closure to outside influences. The events of the novel take place in the 1970s, when the cosmopolitan spirit which has characterised the city throughout history has disappeared. In place of the melting pot of ethnicities, religions and cultures come intolerance and hatred, destroying Alexandria’s secular traditions. The city occupies a large portion of the imaginary space of the novel, in which the characters play out their parts to reveal the social and religious crisis of a city now bereft of its free spirit.
***Badryah El-Bishr was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1967. She obtained a doctorate in Philosophy of Arts and Sociology from The Lebanese University in 2005 and worked as Assistant Professor at Al Jazeera University, Dubai, from 2010 -2011. In 1997, she began writing a weekly article for the Saudi magazine, Al Yamama, and became well-known for her articles: she was the first Arab woman to win the prize for the best newspaper column at the Arabic Press Awards in 2011. She has written an almost daily column for Al Hayat newspaper since 2009. She is the author of three novels: Hind and the Soldiers (2005), The Seesaw (2010) and Love Stories on al-Asha Street (2013), as well as three short story collections.
Love Stories on al-Asha Street is set in the 1970s, on al-Asha Street in the populous district of Manfouha, Riyadh. Three heroines are searching for their freedom: Aziza hopes to find it through love and imitates Soad Hosny, the Cinderella of Arabic cinema, falling in love with an Egyptian doctor because he speaks the dialect of black and white films. Wadha, a bedouin woman, flees from poverty through work in the women's market, becoming its most important trader. Atwa literally runs away from her tiny village, changing her name and fate, and finds independence in the new environment of Riyadh. Their story begins in the romantic period of black and white films and lovers' trysts on the rooftops, where people sleep outside. However, with the advent of colour television comes a wave of religious extremism, opposing the social transformations which have changed the city. One of its first victims is Aziza's young neighbour, Saad. Searching for his identity, he joins the radicals led by religious activist Juhayman al-Otaybi, who famously occupied Mecca’s sacred Grand Mosque in 1979.
***Antoine Douaihy is a Lebanese novelist, poet and thinker, born in 1948. He completed his higher education in Paris, where he obtained a doctorate in Anthropology from The Sorbonne, in 1979, and remained in France until the mid-nineties. He is currently Professor in Cultural and Social Anthropology (the comparative study of civilisations) at The Lebanese University. His novels include: The Book of the Current State (1993), The Garden of Dawn (1999), Hierarchies of Absence (2000), Royal Solitude (2001), Crossing Over Rubble (2003) and The Bearer of the Purple Rose (2013).
The Bearer of the Purple Rose tells the story of a writer's arrest and imprisonment in ‘The Citadel of the Port’, a 700-year old Mamluk fortress built to guard the coast. The arrest of the writer, back from a long exile in the West, is a conundrum for all his friends, who see him as a quiet, peace-loving man. He is imprisoned in a bare cell, possessing only two high windows, impossible to reach, and a picture of the tyrant, who stares at him day and night. Perhaps his arrest confirms what his mother used to tell him: ‘Don't fear anything. What a man fears will happen to him.’ Painfully aware of his loss of freedom, he dwells on many things, including: memories from his time of exile; journeying between two worlds; old love and new love; his mother; the destruction of nature; the tragic nature of history; the strange coincidences of fate, and the courses taken by time and death.
***Amir Tag Elsir is a Sudanese writer, born in 1960. He studied medicine in Egypt and at the Royal Society of Medicine in Britain. He has published 23 books, including novels, biographies and poetry. Amongst his most important works are: The Dowry of Cries, The Copt’s Worries and The French Perfume (all 2009) and The Crawling of the Ants (2010). His novel The Grub Hunter (2010) was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2011 and has been translated into English and Italian.
366 is the love letter of one man to a woman who doesn’t even know he exists. The protagonist falls in love with Asmaa the moment he sees her at a relative’s wedding. Captivated, he begins a quest to find her, searching everywhere from wedding photographs to the street, the neighbourhood and the faces of other women. He even looks for her in horoscopes, in love stories and in his own vivid imagination. In his letter, he lays out details of his life – from the job that he gives up in order to search for her – to his entanglement in certain political issues. When he fails to find her, he even announces his symbolic death, signing his letter as ‘the deceased’, as a preliminary step to suicide.
***Youssef Fadel is a novelist, playwright and screenwriter, born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1949. During the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ in Morocco, he was imprisoned in the notorious Moulay al-Sheriff prison (1974-75). He has published a number of plays and novels. His first play, The Barber in the Poor District, was made into a film directed by Mohamed al-Rakab in 1982. His novel Hashish (2000) won the Grand Atlas Prize, organised by the Embassy of France in Morocco, in 2001. A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me (2013) is his ninth novel.
A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me Aziz is a pilot at the air force base who loves flying and forgets his cares when he is up in the air. It is flying that he thinks of on his wedding night, rather his 16 year-old bride, Zina, waiting in the adjoining room. The following morning he leaves his house at the crack of dawn, not to return for 18 years. His wife, Zina, looks for him everywhere - in prisons, offices, cities and forests – asking questions and following false leads, only to be disappointed. However, one day – in the bar where she and her sister Khatima work – a stranger presses a scrap of paper into her pocket. It takes her on one last journey in search of her husband: to the Kasbah of al-Glaoui in southern Morocco, where Aziz crouches in a prison cell, having lost hope of ever being found. A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me is a fictional testament to the terrible period of Moroccan history known as 'the years of cinders and lead'.
Ismail Ghazali is a Moroccan novelist and short story writer born in the Amazigh village of M'Rirt in 1977. He holds a BA in Arabic Literature and works in the media. He has published two novels: The Murmuring (2001) and Purl of Dreams, Creak of Nightmares (2012, two novellas), as well as six volumes of short stories. His book, Garden of the Spotted Gazelle - which contains four short story collections - was shortlisted for the Moroccan Book Prize in 2012.
The Season of Pike Fishing A French saxophonist is invited by a Moroccan friend to visit the Aglmam Azgza lake in the Middle Atlas mountains, to try pike fishing. Once there, he finds himself dragged into a confusing maze, at the heart of which is the legendary place itself and the savage pike. He encounters many colourful and dubious characters including: Virginia from London; a blonde fisherman nicknamed 'pike-tamer' and a young hotel employee, who is investigating the tragic fates of those who have visited the lake since 1910. There is also a young girl at the lake, a scriptwriter, two actresses called Hagar and Sara, a piano player and so on... The Season of Pike Fishing is a novel within a novel and many separate narratives find a place within its structure.
***Ismail Fahd Ismail is a Kuwaiti writer and novelist. Born in 1940, he has worked as a full-time writer since 1985. He graduated with a BA in Literature and Criticism from the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts, Kuwait, and has worked as both a teacher and in the administration of educational resources. He also managed an artistic production company. Ismail is regarded as the founder of the art of the novel in Kuwait. Since the appearance of his first novel, The Sky Was Blue, in 1970, he has published 26 novels as well as three short story collections, two plays and several critical studies. His support for a large number of short story writers and novelists and his encouragement of creative talent have had a significant impact on the Kuwaiti and Arab literary scene.
The Phoenix and the Faithful Friend is the life story of Mansi Ibn Abihi (literally: ‘Forgotten One, Son of his Father’), who comes from a class of Kuwaitis called the bedun (‘without’) because they lack Kuwaiti citizenship. Released from prison after the liberation of Kuwait, he decides to write his life story, addressing it to the daughter he has never seen, Zeinab – born while Kuwait was under occupation - in the hope that she will get to know her father. Mansi recalls his sufferings as a bedun and tells his daughter of his family: of his mother, who preserves the family’s documents in the hope they can apply for citizenship and of his marriage to Ohood, a Kuwaiti, whose brother Saud refuses to accept the union of a bedun and a Kuwaiti. He writes about his life as a self-made young man and the invasion of Kuwait, when he was forced to join the Iraqi ‘people's army’, but managed to escape and join the Kuwaiti resistance. Finally he writes of his imprisonment following liberation, and his subsequent release.
***Inaam Kachachi was born in Baghdad in 1952, and studied journalism at Baghdad University. She worked in the Iraqi media before moving to Paris to complete a PhD at The Sorbonne. She is currently the Paris correspondent for the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat and Kol Al-Usra magazine in Sharjah, UAE. Kachachi has published a biography in Arabic, Lorna, about the British journalist Lorna Hales, who was married to the famous pioneering Iraqi sculptor Jawad Salim, and a book in French about Iraqi women's literature produced in times of war and hardship. She produced and directed a documentary about Naziha Al-Dulaimi, the first woman to become government minister in an Arab country, in 1959. Her first novel, Heart Springs, was published in 2005 and her second novel, The American Granddaughter (2008), was shortlisted for IPAF in 2009 and has subsequently been translated into English, French and Chinese.
Tashari deals with the tragedy of Iraqi displacement of the past few decades, through the life story of a female doctor working in the countryside in southern Iraq in the 1950s. The narrative also follows her three children, who now live in three different continents, particularly her eldest daughter who has also become a doctor and works in a remote region of Canada. The title of the novel, 'Tashari’, is an Iraqi word referring to a shot from a hunting rifle which is scattered in several directions. Iraqis use it as a symbol of loss and being dispersed across the globe. As a way of combating the dispersal of his own family, one of the characters, Alexander, constructs a virtual graveyard online, where he buries the family dead and allots to each person scattered across the globe his/her own personal plot.
***Khaled Khalifa was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1964 and holds a BA in Law from Aleppo University. He has written many successful screenplays for TV series, as well as for the cinema. He is also a regular contributor to a number of Arabic newspapers. His third novel, In Praise of Hatred (2006), was shortlisted for IPAF in 2008, and longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2013. It has been translated into several languages.
No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a profound exploration of the mechanics of fear and disintegration over half a century. Through the story of one Syrian family, it depicts a society living under tyranny with stifled aspirations. The family realise that all their dreams have died and turned into rubble, just as the corpse of their mother has become waste material they must dispose of in order to continue living. Written with shocking perception and exquisite language, from the very beginning this novel makes its readers ask fundamental questions and shows how regimes can destroy Arab societies, plundering lives and wrecking dreams. Khaled Khalifa writes about everything which is taboo in Arab life, with a particular focus on Syria. No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a novel about grief, fear and the death of humanity.
***Ashraf al-Khamaisi is an Egyptian short story writer and novelist, born in Luxor in 1967. He works as an editor for Al-Thaqafa Al-Jadida magazine. His story The Four Wheels of the Hand-Pushed Cart won first prize in a short story competition for writers from all over the Arab world, organised by the newspaper Akhbar al-Adab. He has published three short story collections and two novels: The Idol (1999) and God's Land of Exile (2013).
God’s Land of Exile is set in 'al-Wa'ara', an imaginary oasis in the Egyptian desert of al-Wadi al-Jadid. The main character, Hajizi, is over 100 years old and has spent most of his life working with his father Shadid, embalming the corpses of animals. Disturbed by the speed with which the living forget the dead, he longs for immortality and fears his own death and burial. When he hears from a passing monk that Christ rose from the dead and that righteous Christians rise from death, he decides to accompany the monk to join his brethren in the mountains. There he meets Christ, who tells him to wait for ‘The Comforter’ who will advise him how to achieve life after death. He returns home to the oasis and waits for instruction. When two of his close friends have died, he has a vision of his own, imminent death and, having not heard from The Comforter, contrives a plan to avoid burial. It is in his last moments that the Comforter arrives and shows him what he must do.
***Waciny Laredj is an Algerian novelist, born in 1954. He settled in Paris in 1994 and is a Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as the Central University of Algeria. He has written a number of novels dealing with Algeria’s history and its harsh upheavals. For the past 10 years he has produced work on the tragedies of the Arab nation, questioning the sacred and static account of its history. His books are published in Arabic and French. He has won a number of prizes for his work, including the Sheikh Zayed Prize for Literature in 2007. He has been longlisted for IPAF twice – in 2011 for The Andalucian House and in 2013 for Lolita’s Fingers.
Ashes of the East (part two): The Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness sees Jazz, a young musician of Arabic origin, exploring his identity through a symphony he is composing. The different elements of the music reflect the harsh reality of his life in America, where he is regarded as a hostile Muslim Arab, as well as stories from the life of his grandfather, Baba Sheriff. Going through key moments of his family history, he reconstructs an unadorned picture of the beginning of the twentieth century: such as Baba Sheriff being carried on his mother's back, or the death of Baba Sheriff’s father, who was incarcerated in Lebanon’s Aliah prison before being strung up on the gallows in Beirut by order of the Ottoman ruler Jamal Pasha, nicknamed ‘the Manslayer’. Jazz goes back to a time shaped by the pursuit of European, rather than Arab, interests, touching on the influence of well-known historical figures: from Yusuf Al-Azmeh, who resisted the French in Syria, to the escapades of Lawrence of Arabia, Prince Faisal and Viscount Allenby. It is through his symphony, Ashes of the East - which he performs at the Brooklyn Opera - that Jazz finds release and brings to life a grandfather who was nothing short of a walking history book.
***Abdelrahim Lahbibi is a Moroccan novelist, born in Safi, Morocco in 1950. He left Safi for Fez in 1967, where he obtained a BA in Arabic Language from the College of Arts and Human Sciences in 1970. He worked as a teacher of Arabic language and literature in secondary education from 1970-1982 and as a school inspector and curriculum co-ordinator from 1984 onwards. He has published three novels: Bread, Hashsish and Fish (2008), The Best of Luck (2010) and The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya (2013).
The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya A researcher stumbles across a manuscript and attempts to edit it, to make it into a doctoral thesis. Entitled The Journeys of 'Abdi, the manuscript is an account of one man’s journeys from Morocco to the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia in search of knowledge, written in the manner of Moroccan intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun. ’Abdi’s journey turns into an examination of Arabic and Muslim society, with ’Abdi emphasising the need for Arabs to learn from Europe in order to achieve social progress. Split into two, The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya follows both ’Abdi’s search for knowledge as well as the narrator’s attempts to edit his manuscript.
***Ahmed Mourad was born in Cairo in 1978. He studied cinematography at the Higher Institute for Cinema in Cairo, graduating in 2001. His graduation films The Wanderers, Three Papers, and On the Seventh Day won prizes for short film at festivals in the UK, France and Ukraine. His first novel, Vertigo, appeared in 2007, before being translated into English, Italian and French and made into a television series broadcast in Ramadan 2012. In 2010, Mourad published his second novel Diamond Dust, which was translated into Italian, followed by The Blue Elephant, in October 2012.
The Blue Elephant After five years of self-imposed isolation, Doctor Yahya returns to work at the Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital in Cairo, where there is a surprise in store for him. In ‘West 8’, the department in charge of determining the mental health of patients who have committed crimes, he meets an old friend who reminds him of a past he is desperately trying to forget. Suddenly finding his friend's fate in his hands, Yahya's life is turned upside down, with one shocking turn of events following another. What begins as an attempt to find out the true mental condition of his friend becomes an enthralling journey to discover himself, or what is left of him.
Ibrahim Nasrallah was born in 1954 to Palestinian parents who were evicted from their land in 1948. He spent his childhood and youth in the Al-Wehdat Palestinian Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan, and began his working life as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. After returning to Amman, he worked as a journalist and for the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. Since 2006, he has been a full-time writer and has so far published 14 poetry collections and 14 novels. He is in the process of writing a Palestinian epic covering 250 years of modern Palestinian history, in seven novels. Three of his novels and a volume of poetry have been translated into English, including his novel Time of White Horses (2007), which was shortlisted for IPAF in 2009. Three of his works have been published in Italian, and a novel each into Danish and Turkish. He is also a painter and photographer and has had four solo exhibitions of his photography. He has won eight prizes, among them the prestigious Sultan Owais Literary Award for Poetry in 1997. His novel Prairies of Fever (1985) was chosen by The Guardian newspaper as one of the ten most important novels written by Arabs or non-Arabs about the Arab world. In 2012, he won the inaugural Jerusalem Award for Culture and Creativity for his writing. His 2012 novel Lanterns of the King of Galilee was longlisted for IPAF in 2013.
The Edge of the Abyss is told through the voices of three characters whose lives are intertwined: a former minister, known for his corrupt practices; his lawyer wife, restricted by her association with him and a professor, whose personal interests dictate that he should serve the minister, but who at the same time seeks to fulfil his dreams of love through romantic adventures and becomes entangled with the minister's wife. Their stories intersect with the changes following the Arab Spring, which is drawing everyone to the edge of the abyss. The Edge of the Abyss depicts an Arab reality where legitimate and illegitimate ambitions are merged, as are the suffering of the individual and that of the community.
Abdel Khaliq Al Rikabi is an Iraqi novelist, born in Badra, Iraq, in 1946. He obtained a BA in Fine Art in 1970 and worked as a teacher for 12 years and as an editor for two magazines, Journeys and Pens. In 1987, his novel The Filter (1986) won the Eastern Fair Prize in Baghdad, while The Seventh Day of Creation (1994) received the Best Iraqi Novel Prize in 1995. It was also selected by the Arab Union of Writers in Damascus as one of the 20 best Arabic novels of the twentieth century and has been translated into Chinese. Some of his work has been adapted for the cinema: the 1985 film The Lover, was based upon his novel The Trials of Abdullah the Lover (1982) and the film The Knight and the Mountain (1987) was adapted from his short story Imagination. The Sad Night of Ali Baba (2013) is his seventh novel.
The Sad Night of Ali Baba continues Al Rikabi's imaginative retelling of the history of modern Iraq. Using the American occupation in 2003 as a starting point, he looks back at the defining social and historical events which have taken place in the country during the 20th century, from the Ottoman Empire to the British and American occupations. Focusing on the American occupation, he explores the different ways in which people have been affected; from those who have suffered random violence to those who have exploited occupation for their own benefit. He explores the explosion of repressed religious, racial and sectarian tensions in Iraq as a result of occupation, and the subsequent hatred, intolerance and desire for revenge.
***Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet and screenwriter, born in 1973 in Baghdad, where he works as a documentary film maker. He is the author of a volume of poetry, Festival of Bad Songs (2000), and three novels, The Beautiful Country (2004), He Dreams or Plays or Dies (2008) and Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013). He has won several prizes and in 2010 was selected for the Beirut39 Festival, as one of the 39 best Arab authors below the age of 40. He took part in the annual IPAF ‘Nadwa’, or literary workshop for promising young writers, in 2012.
Frankenstein in Baghdad Hadi al-Attag lives in the populous al-Bataween district of Baghdad. In the Spring of 2005, he takes the body parts of those killed in explosions and sews them together to create a new body. When a displaced soul enters the body, a new being comes to life. Hadi calls it ‘the-what's-its-name’; the authorities name it ‘Criminal X’ and others refer to it as ‘Frankenstein’. Frankenstein begins a campaign of revenge against those who killed it, or killed the parts constituting its body. As well as following Frankenstein’s story, Frankenstein in Baghdad follows a number of connected characters, such as General Surur Majid of the Department of Investigation, who is responsible for pursuing the mysterious criminal and Mahmoud al-Sawadi, a young journalist who gets the chance to interview Frankenstein. Frankenstein in Baghdad offers a panoramic view of a city where people live in fear of the unknown, unable to act in solidarity, haunted by the unknown identity of the criminal who targets them all.