Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5th IPAF Nadwa for emerging Arab writers opens in Abu Dhabi resort

 IPAF Nadwa mentor: Mohammed Achaari

Eight emerging writers - four men and four women - from eight Arab countries yesterday began the writers' workshop  known as the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) Nadwa, held annually in Abu Dhabi.

This year's Nadwa is led by two mentors:  Moroccan writer Mohammed Achaari - joint winner of IPAF (often referred to as the Arabic Booker) in 2011 for his novel The Arch and the Butterfly - and Lebanese author May Menassa, shortlisted in IPAF's first year, 2008, for Walking in the Dust.

The eight emerging writers participating in the Nadwa are Ayman Otoom (Jordan b1972); Hicham Benchchaoui (Morocco b1976); Samir Kacimi (Algeria 1974); Noha Mahmoud (Egypt b1980); Lulwah al-Mansuri (UAE 1979); Bushra al-Maqtari (Yemen b1979);  Abdullah Mohammed Alobaid (Saudi Arabia b1984), and Nasrin Trabulsi (Syria). (Full biographical details are below)

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the prestigious IPAF Nadwa, which brings together emerging writers from across North Africa and the Middle East and gives them the opportunity to hone their skills under the tutelage of IPAF winning and shortlisted authors.

This is the sixth year of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The longlist for IPAF 2014 will be announced on Monday 6 January, the shortlist on Monday 10 February 2013, and the winner on Tuesday 29 April

May Menassa

This year's eight-day IPAF Nadwa, from 29 October to 5 November, is taking place in the secluded desert resort of Qasr Al Sarab. It is sponsored by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region.

The eight participants were identified by former judges of IPAF as ‘ones to watch’.  Aged from 29 to 43, they come from  a variety of writing backgrounds and professions.

The Nadwa offers emerging authors a retreat where they are able to work on a new piece of fiction, or to develop an existing, unpublished work. In addition to their mentoring sessions with Mohammed Achaari and May Menassa, the participants will take part in daily discussions with their peers, critique each other’s work, and discuss literature in more general terms.

 the first volume of works produced at the IPAF Nadwa

The fruits of the Nadwa will include eight new works of fiction. These will  in time be edited and translated into a bilingual volume of extracts. To date, two volumes IPAF Nadwa volumes have been published, by Saqi Books and Arab Scientific Publishers. Two previous Nadwa participants – Egyptian Mansoura Ez Eldin and Saudi Mohammed Hasan Alwan – went on to be shortlisted for IPAF. Alwan's novel The Beaver, which was shortlisted in IPAF 2012, began life in the 2009 IPAF Nadwa.

Mohammed Achaari said:  "I am greatly looking forward to encountering new texts as they are in the process of being created." He noted that "it is commonly thought that writing is a work which happens between the writer and their text, in isolation and solitude. Perhaps this is true at a deep level, but transforming this almost sensory intimacy into open dialogue and group interchange gives the writing another dimension, as it becomes a shared effort." Achaari says "it will be exciting to get to know these new works in the mirror of other texts, both during the workshop and as they develop afterwards".

Fleur Montanaro

IPAF Administrator Fleur Montanaro, who is coordinating the Nadwa, adds: "We are delighted to be celebrating the fifth year of the IPAF Nadwa, which provides a forum for talented young writers from across the Arab world to interact and engage with each other's work. In the company of Mohammed Achaari and May Menassa as mentors, this year’s Nadwa promises to be as inspiring and stimulating as ever".

IPAF is the leading international prize for Arabic literature. Sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), and run in association with the Booker Prize Foundation in the UK, the Prize aims to celebrate the very best of contemporary Arabic fiction and encourage wider international readership of Arabic literature through translation.
Further information on the Prize can be found at: 


Ayman Otoom is a Jordanian poet and novelist, born in Jerash, Jordan in 1972. He went to secondary school in the UAE and graduated in Civil Engineering from the Jordanian University of Science and Technology in 1997. He then went on to obtain a B.A. in Arabic Language from the University of Yarmuk, Jordan, in 1999 and an M.A. and doctorate in Arabic Language from the University of Jordan in 2007. He has published several volumes of poetry, including his most recent Take Me to the Al-Aqsa Mosque (2013), and is the author of three novels: My Friend, Prison and They Hear Her Whispering (both published in 2012) and The Taste of Death (2013). He is currently a teacher in Amman.

Hicham Benchchaoui is a Moroccan writer. Born in al-Jadida, Morocco, in 1976, he trained as a journalist and has written for several Arab newspapers and periodicals. From 2008 to 2010 he worked as a cultural reporter for Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada and Moroccan newspaper Al-Jarida al-Oula. He also co-edited the seventh edition of Sisra magazine, published by the cultural association Aljouf, Saudi Arabia. He is the author of two novels and four short story collections. His novel Nap on an Autumn Sunday came third in the Al Tayeb Salih Award for Creative Writing in 2012. 

Samir Kacimi is an Algerian novelist. Born in Algiers in 1974, he graduated with a Law degree and currently works as a newspaper columnist. His first novel was Declaration of Lostness (2009), the first Algerian novel to deal with prison in Algeria, which won the Hashemi Saidani Award for the best Algerian debut. In the same year, he published his second novel A Great Day to Die, the first Algerian novel to reach the IPAF longlist. His third novel, Halabil, was published in 2010 and chapters from his next work In Love with a Barren Woman (2011) were featured in English translation in Banipal Magazine. His most recent novel is The Dreamer (2012).

Noha Mahmoud is an Egyptian writer, born in 1980. She currently writes for Egyptian newspaper The Republic. She has published three prose works and three novels: Telling Stories Sitting on Marble Blocks (2007), Rakousha (2009) and Hallucinations (2013), for which she won the Dubai Cultural Prize. 

Lulwah al-Mansuri is a writer and journalist from the United Arab Emirates. Born in 1979, she has a B.A. in Arabic and a diploma in Family and Media Studies. Her novel, The Last Women of Lengeh, was published by the Department of Media and Culture in Sharjah in 2013. Her short story collection, The Village Which Sleeps in My Pocket, won the Dubai Cultural Prize in 2013.

Bushra al-Maqtari was born in Taiz, Yemen in 1979. She is a writer and novelist and member of the executive board of the Union of Yemeni Writers. She has published a prose collection called The Furthest Reaches of Pain (2003) and a novel, Behind the Sun (2012). Her writing has been published in various Arab newspapers and periodicals. In 2013, she was awarded the Françoise Giroud Award for Defence of Freedom and Liberties in Paris and also the Leaders for Democracy Prize, presented by the Project on Middle East Democracy, in Washington.  

Abdullah Alobaid is a Saudi Arabian writer. Born in Riyadh in 1984, he studied Management Information Systems at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran. He is the author of one novel, Nicotine (2011), and Companion, a book of prose and poetry (2013). He has also written scripts for television dramas and, for the last four years, has performed stand-up comedy. 

Nasrin Trabulsi is a Syrian writer. Based in Kuwait, she works as a television news presenter. She has a B.A. in Dramatic Literature and is the author of three collections of short stories – Waiting for a Legend (1997), Scheherazade Got Bored (2004), The Last Dance Rehearsal (2008) – and a book of prose poetry, entitled Speech of the Dumb (2009). She has published a number of critical articles in Arab newspapers and specialist periodicals on literature and the theatre, as well as a series of articles called From the Balcony of Humanity in Sawa Magazine and the Kuwaiti al-Qabas newspaper. Currently, she writes a column for Al-Quds al-Arabi called Fadaai'yat. She has hosted several literary evenings in which she dramatically enacted her short stories, in Damascus, Kuwait, Cairo and Sharjah.  


Mohammed Achaari was born in 1951 in Zerhoun, Morocco. After studying Law and Administration, he worked in political and cultural journalism and was editor of a number of newspapers and cultural supplements. He has written articles on literature and the arts, including poetry and short stories. For three consecutive years, he was head of the Union of Moroccan writers and his political work led him to take up various government posts, including that of Minister of Culture in Morocco from 1998-2007. His 11 poetry collections have been published in Baghdad, Beirut and Casablanca, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent poetic voices of the 70s generation in Morocco. His 2011 novel The Arch and the Butterfly won IPAF and was recently nominated for Italy’s Ziator Prize. His works have been translated into a number of languages. He lives in Rabat, Morocco, where he is a full-time writer. 

May Menassa was born in Beirut in 1939 and holds a postgraduate diploma in French Literature. She began her career as a broadcast journalist in 1959. She has worked as a critic for the Lebanese newspaper An Nahar since 1969. She has published eight novels, as well as two children’s books and she has worked on many translations, mainly from French into Arabic. Her fifth novel Walking in the Dust was shortlisted for IPAF in 2008. Her first novel, Pages from Notebooks of a Pomegranate Tree (1998), was translated into French in 2012. 


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