Monday, September 27, 2010

record number of novels submitted for IPAF (the Arabic Booker)

above: Abdo Khal, the Saudi winner of IPAF 2010

International Prize for Arabic Fiction celebrates its fourth year with increase in submissions

The organisers of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF – popularly known as the Arabic Booker) announced on Monday 27 September that a record 123 entries from 17 countries, all but one of them Arab, were received for the 2011 prize. A statement released via IPAF’s PR advisers Colman Getty said: “Submissions have now closed for IPAF 2011 and the organisers are delighted to announce another healthy round of entries for this young but prestigious literary prize”. As before, the identity of the judges is being kept secret until the shortlist for the prize is announced, on 9 December. The winner will be declared on 14 March.

Novels were submitted to the prize from Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Libya, Sudan, Qatar and, for the first time, Afghanistan. Over a quarter of the submissions came from Egypt, home of the first two IPAF winners Bahaa Taher (winner in 2008, for Sunset Oasis) and Youssef Ziedan (2009, for Azazel). This sets the record for the highest number of submissions from one country in the prize’s three year history.

In 2009, there were 118 entries from 17 countries and the eventual winner was Saudi Arabian author Abdo Khal for Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles. There was a growing number of submissions from female writers this year, with works by female writers forming 29% of the overall submissions, up from 16% last year and 14% the year before.

IPAF was launched in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, in April 2007 and it is funded by the Emirates Foundation, a leading UAE philanthropic organisation, and supported by the Booker Prize Foundation. It is open to living authors whose novels are written in the original Arabic. Publishers were requested to submit up to three novels published between August 2009 and July 2010, although only one novel per author is eligible and titles cannot have been submitted in a previous prize year. In addition, if the judging panel – whose names will be revealed at the same time as the shortlist announcement – feel that any book should have been submitted, they have the right to call it in. Any new titles by previous IPAF winning or shortlisted authors may also be submitted.

The longlist for the 2011 Prize will be announced on 10 November 2010, with the shortlist and panel of judges announced on 9 December 2010 and the winner announced on 14 March 2011. The shortlisted finalists for the Prize will each receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000. Both can look forward to reaching wider audiences and potentially securing publishing deals – both within the Arab World and internationally. Previous winners and shortlisted authors have secured English publications of their novels and a number other international translations as a result of the prize.

Jonathan Taylor CBE, Chairman of the IPAF Board of Trustees, and of the Booker Prize Foundation, comments: “Now we are into the fourth year of the Prize, it is good to see its continuing momentum and to celebrate the impact it is having on high quality literary fiction in the Arab World, in terms of profile, book sales and translation.”

Other supporters of the Prize include Etihad Airways, as the official airline of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. An independent Board of Trustees, drawn from across the Arab world and beyond, is responsible for the overall management of the prize.

In addition to the annual prize, the IPAF supports literary initiatives and in 2009 launched its inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) for a group of aspiring writers from across the Arab world. The workshop – the first of its kind for Arab writers - took place in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. It resulted in eight new pieces of fiction by some of the Arab world’s most promising authors, five of whom have recently been selected for the Beirut39. This collection of stories will be published by Saqi Books in the UK in 2011. A second nadwa will take place in Abu Dhabi from 19–26 October 2010.