Thursday, January 28, 2016

Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize & other translation prizes to be awarded in London 17 February

Following its announcement that Paul Starkey has won the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation 2015 for his translation of Youssef Rakha's debut novel The Book of the Sultan's Seal: Strange Incidents from History in the City of Mars (Interlink Books), with Jonathan Wright  commended for his translation of Amjad Nasser's debut novel Land of No Rain (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing - BQFP), the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature has announced the following details of the  Award Ceremony of Translation Prizes:

Wednesday 17 February
The Award Ceremony of Translation Prizes from Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Swedish
Europe House, 
32 Smith Square, 
London SW1P 3EU

Introduced by Paula Johnson, Prize Administrator, the Society of Authors
Prizes presented by judges of the prizes, with readings by the winning translator.

Following the readings, novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones will be in conversation with fiction and  journalism writer, and performer, A. L. Kennedy.

The Translation Prizes are administered by the Society of Authors, which will host the Award Ceremony

Monday, January 25, 2016

judging panel for the Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 announced

The five-member judging panel of the £10,000 Caine Prize for African Writing 2016  was announced today in London. The panel, comprising four women and one man, is chaired by the distinguished author and broadcaster Delia Jarrett-Macauley. She is joined by the acclaimed film, television and voice actor, Adjoa Andoh; the writer and founding member of the Nairobi based writers’ collective, Storymoja, and founder of the Storymoja Festival, Muthoni Garland; Associate Professor and Director of African American Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC, Dr Robert J Patterson; and South African writer, and 2006 Caine Prize winner, Mary Watson.

 Delia Jarrett-Macauley

The Caine Prize has been awarded annually since 2000 for a short story of 3,000 to 10,000 words by an African writer published in English. An 'African writer’ is defined as someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.

Announcing the judging panel, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, said: “I'm delighted to be chairing the 2016 Caine Prize judging panel. 2015 was an impressive year for the Caine Prize, with record entries, a excellent shortlist and marvellous winner. I look forward to joining my fellow judges to read some equally impressive stories this year.”

The deadline for the submission of stories for this year's prize is 31 January. Last year a record 153 qualifying stories were submitted to the judges, from 17 African countries. The judges will meet in April to decide on this year’s shortlisted stories, which will be announced shortly thereafter. In addition to the winner's £10,000 prize, £500 will be awarded to each shortlisted writer. The winning story will be announced at a dinner at the Bodleian Library in Oxford on Monday 4 July 2016.

The judges:

Delia Jarrett-Macauley (DMS, Ph.D., FRSA, Chair of the Judges, is an accomplished writer, academic and broadcaster with a career spanning over 25 years. Her impressive body of work is held in high regard both nationally and internationally. Delia is also a member of the Caine Prize Council and served as a judge in 2007. She is the author of the literary biography The life of Una Marson 1905-1965, and of the novel Moses, Citizen and Me, which won the Orwell Prize in 2006.

Muthoni Garland

Muthoni Garland has published twenty books for children, two novellas for adults, and several stories published in literary journals and in the anthology, 'Helicopter Beetles,' which is available on Amazon as an e book. She is also a storyteller and has appeared on stage in several countries. Muthoni is a founder member of the writer's collective, Storymoja, which aggressively preaches the gospel of reading for pleasure. Storymoja runs several projects promoting reading among children, including the bi-annual National Read Aloud, which in 2015, broke the world record of people reading from the same text on the same day at the same time. Storymoja also organises the Storymoja Festival in Nairobi.

Robert J. Patterson

Robert J. Patterson is an associate professor of African American studies and English and director of the African American Studies Program at Georgetown University. He is the author of Exodus Politics: Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture (University of Virginia Press 2013), and co-editor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Culture (Rutgers University Press 2016). His work appears in South Atlantic Quarterly, Black Camera, Religion and Literature, The Cambridge Companion to African American Women's Writing, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the Cambridge Companion to Civil Rights Literature. He also co-guest-edited a special edition of South Atlantic Quarterly on "Black Literature, Black Leadership." Extending his scholarly interests in the post-civil rights era, black popular culture, and the politics of race and gender, Patterson has begun work on a second book, It's Just Another Sad Love Song: R and B Music and the Politics of Race.

Mary Watson

Mary Watson is the author of Moss (2004), The Cutting Room (2013) and several short stories in anthologies. She won the Caine Prize in 2006 for her story "Jungfrau". A lapsed academic, Mary did an MA in Creative Writing under the mentorship of André Brink, before completing a doctorate in Film Studies. Born in Cape Town, she currently lives in Ireland. She was a finalist for the Rolex Mentor/Protégé Initiative in 2012, and in 2014 she was included in the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of promising writers under forty.

 Adjoa Andoh

Adjoa Andoh is a highly acclaimed and well-established actress of film, television, radio and theatre and is of Ghanaian decent. In 2009, she appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie Invictus as Nelson Mandela's Chief of Staff. She is also a familiar face on British television and has appeared on Doctor Who as Francine Jones and also had a long standing role as Colette Griffiths in Casualty. She is known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Almeida Theatre. Andoh is the voice of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency; she won "Audio Book of the Year" for Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. She has already judged several prizes including the Bafta TV panel, the Carlton Hobbs/ Norman Beaton BBC radio Award, the Susan Blackburn Award, and the Alfred Fagon Award.

The five shortlisted stories, alongside stories written at the Caine Prize workshop - the 2016 workshop is to be held in Zambia in March - are published annually by New Internationalist (UK), Jacana Media (South Africa), Lantern Books (United States), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), Bookworld Publishers (Zambia), Langaa Research and Publishing (Cameroon) and ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe). Books are available from the publishers or from the Africa Book Centre, African Books Collective or Amazon.

“The Sack” by Namwali Serpell, the first-ever Zambian Caine prizewinner, won last year's prize, and is included in the Caine Prize 2015 anthology, Lusaka Punk.  Chair of the 2015 Caine Prize judges Zoë Wicomb praised the story, when it won, saying, “From a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading. Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects. ‘The Sack’ is a truly luminous winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.”

The Caine Prize is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. It is supported by The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, The Miles Morland Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Booker Prize Foundation, Sigrid Rausing and Eric Abraham, Prudential Plc, The Beit Trust, CSL Stockbrokers, the Morel Trust, The British Council, The Wyfold Charitable Trust, the Royal Over-Seas League, Commonwealth Writers, an initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, Adam and Victoria Freudenheim, John and Judy Niepold, Arindam Bhattacherjee and other generous donors. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

16-novel longlist of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) 2016 announced

the 16 titles shortlisted for IPAF 2016
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) today revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2016 prize. They were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months.

In a pre-longlist statement issued a week ago, IPAF stressesed the representation of women and youth among the entries. Of the total entries, 38 (24 percent) were by women, but only two of these have made the longlist. Forty-nine (31 percent) of the entries, were by authors under 40, of which three have got through to the longlist.

The prize is worth a total of $60,000 to the winner: the $50,000 main award plus the $10,000 that goes to each shortlisted author. Delivering on its aim to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction, the Prize also guaratees English translation for the winning title.

This is the ninth year of the Prize, recognised as the leading award for literary fiction in the Arab world. It  is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funding from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi). It also enjoys support from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Etihad Airways

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, whose names will be announced in Muscat, Oman, on Tuesday 9 February 2016, along with the six-title shortlist. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

The highest number of 2016 longlisted authors come from Egypt and Palestine, with three from Egypt together with two from Palestine and one from Palestine/Jordan. There are two writers from each of Morocco, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; and one from each of Kuwait and Sudan.

Two of the longlisted authors have been shortlisted for the prize previously: Rabai al-Madhoun and Mohamed Mansi Qandil both appeared on the IPAF shortlist in 2010, with al-Madhoun’s book, The Lady from Tel Aviv, now available in English translation from Telegram Books. Another longlisted writer, Taleb Alrefai, was Chair of the IPAF Judges that year.

The list includes a number of younger writers and debut novelists. Three longlisted writers are less than 40 years old, and first novels by two Moroccan authors - Tareq Bakari and Abdennour Mezzine - are included. Two longlisted authors – Mohamed Rabie (from Egypt) and Shahla Ujayli (Syria) – have participated in IPAF’s annual nadwa, or writers’ workshop, for emerging writers with promise. Ujayli worked on a section of her longlisted book, A Sky Close to Our House, during the 2014 nadwa.

The as yet unnamed Chair of Judges comments: “The task of choosing this year's longlist was not easy given the high quality of overall submissions, which featured many young, unknown writers in addition to well-established names. However, a strong longlist has emerged, with many of the titles dealing with their subjects in fresh and unconventional ways and using experimental language.

"The books look at topical concerns from the Arab world – from daily life to larger political and social issues – and, between them, condemn violence, sectarianism (political, religious and tribal) and current dictatorships.”

Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees, says:
“This is an impressive longlist of novels that hail from different parts of the Arab world. They address abiding issues that touch different aspects of our humanity in vivid and often disturbing ways that challenge preconceived ideas. Technically mature and sometimes demanding, the longlist lives up to the IPAF tradition of enticing the readers into new worlds of the creative imagination.”

by Taleb Alrefai
Platinum Books

Hymns of Temptation
by Laila al-Atrash
Difaf Publications
Laila al-Atrash
by Tareq Bakari
Dar al-Adab

The Temple of Silken Fingers
by Ibrahim Farghali

People of the Palms
by Janan Jasim Halawi
Saqi Books

Mariam's Journey
Mahmoud Hasan al-Jasim
Dar Tanweer, Egypt

Desertified Waters
Hazim Kamaledin

Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba
Rabai al-Madhoun
Maktabat Kul Shee

Letters of the Storm
Abdennour Mezzine
Slaiki Akhawayn Publications

Warsaw a Little While Ago
Ahmed Muhsin
Hachette Antoine

The Prophecy of Saqqa
Hamed al-Nazir
Dar Tanweer, Tunis

The Black Brigade
Mohamed Mansi Qandil
Dar al-Shorouq
 Mohamed Mansi Qandil

Mohamed Rabie
Dar Tanweer, Lebanon

Praise for the Women of the Family
Mahmoud Shukair
Hachette Antoine

A Sky Close to Our House
Shahla Ujayli
Difaf Publications

The Guard of the Dead
George Yaraq
Difaf Publications

Taleb Alrefai is a Kuwaiti novelist, born in 1958. He is the author of a number of works including The Shade of the Sun (1998), Petty Thefts (2011) and The Dress (2009). In 2002, he won the Kuwaiti State Prize for Literature for his novel Scent of the Sea. Between 2003 and 2008, he worked for the Kuwaiti National Council of Culture, Arts and Literature and edited the monthly arts review, Jaridat Al Funoon. He currently works as cultural advisor to the Kuwaiti Minister of Media, and teaches creative writing at the American University in Kuwait. In addition to writing fiction, he has published several literary and historical studies. He was Chair of judges for the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Taleb Alrefai
Here is an unflinching portrayal of the suffering endured by a young, single Shiite woman from Kuwait who falls in love with a married Sunni man with children. The title of the novel alludes to the significance of the many places in the story. 'Here' is the office where the narrator works and the flat where the heroine, Kawthar, chooses to live alone. It is the home of her Shiite family, who refuse to let their daughter marry a Sunni man, and it is also Kuwait, a country still clinging to its traditions.

Laila al-Atrash is a Palestinian/Jordanian novelist, born in Beit Sahour, east of Bethlehem, in 1948. Her novels and short stories have been translated into several languages, including English, French, Italian, Korean, and Hebrew, and have been added to university curriculums in Jordan, France and America. In 2007, she helped to establish the Library of the Family and Reading for All projects in Jordan, and her social and cultural programmes have won numerous prizes at television and radio festivals. In the 2015 Human Development Report, she was among a small number of women writers who were deemed to have been influential in their societies. She has published a short story collection, two plays and nine novels, including: The Sun Rises in the West (1998), Two Nights...and the Shadow of A Woman (1998), Ports of Delusion (2006), Women at the Crossroads (2009) and Hymns of Temptation (2014).

In Hymns of Temptation, Rawia Abu Najma – a documentary producer who has not visited Jerusalem since the Six Day War of 1967 – obtains a special permit to return. Although she has come to sort out the affairs of an aged aunt, she secretly hopes to make a film about people's lives in the city. Through her aunt's memories and those of her friend, the wife of the custodian of the Holy Mosque, a forbidden and passionate love affair between her aunt and the priest Mitri al-Haddad comes to light. She also uncovers old disagreements between the Greek Orthodox Church, Muslims and Arab Christians in Jerusalem. Hymns of Temptation charts the social development of Jerusalem and the struggle of different peoples to control it, describing life from the period of the Ottomans and the British Mandate at the end of the 19th century to after the Israeli occupation. It is a novel of people living through times of sweeping moral, political and social change.

Tareq Bakari was born in Missour, eastern Morocco, in 1988. He graduated with a BA in Arabic Literature from Mohamed Bin Abdullah University, Fes, in 2010 and obtained a diploma from the Meknes Teacher Training College in 2011. Since then, he has worked as an Arabic language teacher in Meknes. He has published numerous articles and pieces of creative writing, both in print and online. Numedia (2015) is his first novel.

Numedia tells the life story of Murad, written by his former girlfriend Julia, a Frenchwoman. An orphan, Murad is cursed by the people of his village. Ostracised, insulted and beaten, he turns to love in an attempt to take revenge on fate: first with Khoula, who becomes pregnant; then Nidal, his classmate and fellow comrade in resistance; then Julia, seen as the French coloniser, and with his final love Numedia, the mute Berber. The rich story of Numedia unfolds against the backdrop of the real-life historical, political and religious landscape of Morocco.

Ibrahim Farghali is an Egyptian writer, born in Mansoura in 1967. He obtained a BA in Business Studies from Mansoura University and works as a journalist on the staff of Al-Arabi magazine in Kuwait. He has previously worked in the UAE and Oman, and for the Al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo. He has published three short story collections and six novels, including: The Cave of Butterflies (1998), Smiles of Saints (2004), published in English by the American University in Cairo in 2007, Genie in a Bottle (2007) and Sons of Gebalawi (2009), winner of the 2012 Sawiris Prize.

The Temple of Silken Fingers is narrated by a manuscript which is abandoned at sea by its author. The manuscript relates what happens as it tries to reunite with its author, as well as revealing the author’s past life in the UAE, Egypt and Germany. Weaved together with this are the adventures contained within the manuscript’s pages: a story of copyists fleeing a city called the City of Injustice, which is dominated by extremists ruled by the head of a censorship bureau. On its journey, the manuscript is discovered by a number of new readers: the author’s friend, pirates and an Ethiopian girl.

Janan Jasim Halawi is an Iraqi writer, born in 1956. He studied electrical engineering in Iraq and worked as a journalist in Lebanon, mainly for the Al-Nahar newspaper. He has lived in Sweden since 1992. He is the author of seven volumes of short stories, three poetry collections and six novels: Ya Kokti (1991), Night of the Land (2002), which was published in French by Actes Sud in 2005, Paths and Dust (2003), Hot Places (2006), Not Much Air (2009) and People of the Palms (2015).

People of the Palms holds a spotlight on the inhabitants of the palm groves and marshlands of Basra, Iraq. The book pulsates with stories of life and death. As Basra reels with destruction and death, the terrified Ramzi and Ahlam cut a path through the devastated city, fleeing from soldiers. Their story is just one amongst a collection of disparate tales about characters from Basra's underworld: Jodi, a worker in an old people's home, killed by the police for helping the mad Muhaidi; Johnny, the sea smuggler, forced to act as an informer for the police; Jawad, a communist, who kills the local Islamic leader, Jaafar, after he declares Communists to be apostates; Badea, an ordinary girl driven to prostitution by poverty and murdered, and Alawi, the rebellious loner who kills her murderer.

Mahmoud Hasan al-Jasim is a Syrian writer and academic, born in 1966. He taught at the College of Arts and Humanities in Aleppo, Syria, before moving in 2012 to his current post at the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University. He has spent more than 14 years teaching Arabic grammar and Arabic to non-native speakers. He has published three novels: Forgive Me, Mother (2014), Brazen Looks (2015) and Mariam's Journey (2015).

Mariam's Journey opens with the lines: “I am writing this story for you, Mariam. You will read the story and know and pass on the truth of what happened to us.” This is the story told by Sara Toni Jabbour to her daughter, Mariam. Sara, a Christian woman, moves to the Syrian city of Raqqa and marries Mariam’s father, a Muslim man. When fundamentalist Salafi groups sweep through Raqqa, Sara is forced – as a Christian married to a Muslim – to retreat to her family’s village. However, with Shabiha thugs in control of the area, she flees into the unknown with Mariam only to then face merciless people smugglers. Wanting to leave her daughter a true and undistorted account of their life as a family, Sara records for Mariam the joys of life with her husband and the torment of life without him. Through the story of her journey across Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, we gain an insight into the fear experienced by those forced to leave their country.

Hazim Kamaledin is an Iraqi writer and playwright, born in 1954. He has worked as an actor, director and cinematographer and is also a researcher, novelist, and short story writer. He previously lectured at the Belgian Universities of Ghent and Antwerp and supervised students on DasArts (MA theatre) courses in the Amsterdam University of the Arts. He is the former director of the Sahara 93 theatre workshop and is currently the artistic director of the Belgian Zahrat al-Sabbar theatre company.

In Desertified Waters, Hazim Kamaledin – who is both narrator and author of the novel – is murdered. Kamaledin is a filmmaker who was once famous but has been forgotten. Famous because of his film, “Desertified Waters”, which won the highest award in Saddam Hussein's Iraq: the film, intended to be critical of the regime, is cut so much by the censor that it does just the opposite. Intentionally forgotten as a result of winning the award: as those in cultural circles know the truth about how the film has been distorted, but are afraid to open up a can of worms from the past, especially since the occupation has re-imposed the forceful censorship of the past. Nobody knows the truth about his death. Some say that terrorists are responsible, others that he was a victim of a random strike at the market by the American occupying forces or those working for them.

Rabai al-Madhoun is a Palestinian writer, born in al-Majdal, Ashkelon, southern Palestine (now Israel), in 1945. During the 1948 Nakba exodus, his family emigrated to Khan Younis in the Gaza strip. He studied at Cairo and Alexandria Universities, Egypt, but was expelled from Egypt in 1970 before graduating, because of his political activities. He has worked at the Palestinian Centre for Research Studies and as a journalist and editor for many newspapers and magazines, including Al-Horria, Al-Ufuq, Sawt al-Bilad, Al-Quds al-Arabi, Al-Hayat, WTN (an American TV news network), and APTN-Associated Press. His published works include the novel The Lady from Tel Aviv (2010) - shortlisted for IPAF 2010 -  and his second novel Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba (2015). The Lady from Tel Aviv was translated into English by Elliot Colla and published by Telegram Books. The book won the English PEN Writers in Translation award. He currently works as an editor for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London.

Rabai al-Madhoun
Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba is a pioneering Palestinian novel written in four parts. Each part representing a concerto movement, the novel looks at the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948 (known as the ‘nakba’), the holocaust and the Palestinian right to return. Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba is a novel of Palestine from outside and from within. It examines the tragedy of everyday Palestinian life, telling the story of Palestinians living under occupation and forced to assume Israeli nationality, as well as exiled Palestinians trying to return to their now-occupied home country.

Abdennour Mezzine is a Moroccan doctor and writer, born in the town of Ben Ahmed, near Chefchaouen, in 1965. In 1992, he obtained a doctorate in Medicine and since then has worked as a doctor and public health advisor in the Moroccan Ministry of Public Health. He published his first poems, written in French, in Al-Ra'i newspaper in Rabat, and then in 1992 published short stories in Arabic in the cultural supplement of the Al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki newspaper. His book of short stories, The Mustard Gas Kiss was published in 2010, and a poetry collection Commandments of the Sea appeared in 2013. Letters of the Storm (2015) is his first novel.

Letters of the Storm tells the story of a political activist in Morocco during the ‘Years of Lead’, a period of harsh governmental control between the 1960s and 1990s. Weaving together his personal life and political life, the novel examines the protagonist’s relationships before and after his initial imprisonment in Morocco and again during a second term of imprisonment in Andalusia, during which he faces psychological trauma. Central to this is the story of the activist’s love for Ghada, a woman he knew at university but lost touch with after being arrested.

Ahmed Muhsin is a Lebanese writer, born in 1984. Since graduating in Economics from the Beirut Arab University, he has worked as a journalist for Lebanese newspapers, and published poetry and prose in specialist literary and cultural publications. Warsaw a Little While Ago is his second novel after The Maker of Games, which reached the longlist of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (2014-15) in the Young Writers category.

Warsaw a Little While Ago is a story of identity. It tells the story of Youzef, a Jewish musician in Poland who, having escaped death in Nazi camps, decides to emigrate, first to Israel and then to Lebanon. There he marries and has a family, before returning to Warsaw years later with his grandson, Jousef. The book tells of the amorous and musical adventures of both Youzef and Jousef who, realising his grandfather's dreams for him of being a musician, learns to play the piano. Following the Israeli attack on Beirut in 2006, Jousef also finds himself torn between staying in Warsaw and emigrating to Israel like his grandfather 60 years before.

Hamed al-Nazir was born in Sudan in 1975. He currently works as a journalist in the newsroom of Qatar Television and writes for a number of newspapers and websites. Previously, he was a presenter on the Sudanese Shorouk channel, the Sudanese Blue Nile channel and Sudan radio, and was a news correspondent for MBC in Sudan. His first novel, Farij al-Murar (2014), won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity and the Qatar Vodafone Prize for the Novel, both in 2014.

The Prophecy of Saqqa is set in the 1960s, in the town of Ajayib in the hills of the Eritrean coast, where the "Ahfad", slaves to their masters the "Awtad", struggle for freedom. When a powerful Awtad asks to marry a beautiful woman from the Ahfad, they see the marriage as their chance for liberation, as prophesied. However, the Awtad look upon the proposed marriage with foreboding and do everything in their power to stop it from taking place. These events coincide with the early days of the Eritrean armed struggle for independence from Ethiopia. Its successes and failures and the divisions within the revolutionary leadership form the background to the events of the novel.

Mohamed Mansi Qandil is an Egyptian novelist, born in 1949 in the Egyptian delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra. He graduated from medical school in Mansoura in 1975, but gave up medicine, devoting himself instead to writing, and going on to win the State Incentive Prize in 1988. His works are marked by a fascination with history. His novels include Moon over Samarkand (2004) winner of the 2006 Sawiris Award, which was translated into English, and A Cloudy Day on the West Side (2009), shortlisted for IPAF 2010.  Among his other novels are Breaking of the Spirit (1992) and I Loved (2012).

The Black Brigade, set between 1863 and 1867, is a novel about love, war and destiny. The French emperor, Napoleon III, makes an agreement with Khedive Said of Egypt to transport hundreds of black slave fighters to Mexico. There, they are to be handed over to Maximilian, brother of the Austrian emperor Leopold, who travels to Mexico with his young wife Carlota amidst disturbances and revolution. The novel follows the adventures of Al-Aasi, a black slave who defies the slave traders and becomes a leader of a group of the slaves. Following a series of hardships whilst he travels from Sudan to Mexico, Al-Aasi then becomes Empress Carlota’s personal bodyguard and finally plays a role in the French Revolution and Paris Commune of 1867.

Mohamed Rabie is an Egyptian writer, born in 1978. He graduated from the Cairo faculty of engineering in 2002 and his first novel, Kawkab Anbar (2010), won first prize in the emerging writers' category of the Sawiris Cultural Award in 2012. His second novel, Year of the Dragon, was published in 2012, followed by Mercury in 2014. In 2012, he took part in the IPAF nadwa (writers' workshop) for promising young writers.

Mercury is a dark fantasy which imagines “the counter revolution" in Egypt as a reality in a nightmarish future. The eponymous hero of this fantasy novel is an officer who witnessed the defeat of the police in Cairo on 28 January 2011. Over a decade later, Egypt is occupied by a mysterious power and the remnants of the old police force are leading the popular resistance, fighting among the ruins of a shattered Cairo. It is a daily hell of arbitrary killing, an intensified version of the sporadic massacres witnessed since the famous revolution in January.

Mahmoud Shukair is a Palestinian writer, born in Jabal al-Mukabbar, Jerusalem, in 1941. He writes short stories and novels for adults and teenagers. He is the author of forty-five books, six television series, and four plays. His stories have been translated into several languages, including English, French, German, Chinese, Mongolian and Czech. He has occupied leadership positions within the Jordanian Writers' Union and the Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists. In 2011, he was awarded the Mahmoud Darwish Prize for Freedom of Expression. He has spent his life between Beirut, Amman and Prague and now lives in Jerusalem.

Praise for the Women of the Family is a history of the women of the Al-Abd al-Lat clan, which has left the desert and is preparing to leave its Bedouin customs behind. The women of the clan struggle with these changes and many scorn those embracing modern life: when Rasmia accompanies her husband to a party, Najma wears a dress and Sana gets a tan on her white legs, they set malicious tongues wagging; meanwhile, Wadha, the sixth wife of Mannan, the chief of the clan, still believes that the washing machine and television are inhabited by evil spirits. Set after the nakba (the Palestinian exodus from what is now Israel) in a time of political and social change, the novel witnesses the rapid advance of modernity and the seeds of conflict beginning to grow in 1950s Palestine.

Shahla Ujayli is a Syrian writer, born in 1976. She holds a doctorate in Modern Arabic Literature and Cultural Studies from Aleppo University in Syria and currently teaches Modern Arabic Literature at the University of Aleppo and the American University in Madaba, Jordan. She is the author of a short story collection entitled The Mashrabiyya (2005) and two novels: The Cat's Eye (2006), which won the Jordan State Award for Literature in 2009, and Persian Carpet (2013). She has also published a number of critical studies, including The Syrian Novel: Experimentalism and Theoretical Categories (2009), Cultural Particularity in the Arabic Novel (2011) and Mirror of Strangeness: Articles on Cultural Criticism (2006). In 2014, she took part in the IPAF nadwa (writers' workshop) for promising young writers, where she worked on a passage from her 2016 longlisted novel, A Sky Close to Our House.

A Sky Close to Our House spans the second half of the 19th century to the present, featuring characters from different backgrounds who meet in Amman, Jordan, the city at the heart of the story. It is here that Jaman Badran, a Syrian immigrant, gets to know Nasr Al-Amiri, a Palestinian-Syrian who has come to Amman for his mother’s funeral. They soon discover that their grandparents were neighbours in Aleppo. Through the dramatic fall of families in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Serbia and Vietnam, A Sky Close to Our House shows how wars can change concepts of identity and nation, and create new destinies for large numbers of people; it also underlines that mass tragedy does not in any way negate the significance of individual suffering.

George Yaraq is a Lebanese novelist, born in 1958. He has worked as an editor and freelance writer for several Lebanese newspapers and magazines, such as Al-Nahar, Al-Liwa', Al-Hayat, Al-Sayyad, and Jasad. His first novel, Night, was published in 2013.

Guard of the Dead is the story of Aabir, a hospital undertaker. Working in the morgue by day and the operating theatre by night, he learns to pluck out and sell the gold teeth he finds in the corpses’ mouths. However, he lives in a state of constant dread and apprehension, his past working for a political party and as a sniper during the Lebanese Civil War hanging over him. One day, Aabir is kidnapped from the morgue. With no idea about where he is, who has taken him or why, he finds himself searching for clues about his kidnapping in his past.

The first eight winners of the Prize are:

2008: Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher (Egypt)
2009: Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt)
2010: Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal (Saudi Arabia)
2011: The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari (Morocco) and The Doves' Necklace by Raja Alem (Saudi Arabia)
2012: The Druze of Belgrade by Rabee Jaber (Lebanon)
2013: The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi (Kuwait)
2014: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq)
2015: The Italian by Shukri Mabkhout (Tunisia)

In accordance with its aim of increasing the  international reach of Arabic fiction, IPAF guarantees English translation for the winning title. Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis was translated into English by Humphrey Davies and published by Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder and Stoughton) in 2009; it has gone on to be translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Ziedan’s Azazeel, translated by Jonathan Wright, was published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012, while 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. English translations of Abdo Khal's (translated by Maïa Tabet and Michael K. Scott) and Mohammed Achaari’s (translated by Aida Bamia) winning novels were published in 2014 by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP).

Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk (BQFP), in Jonathan Wright's translation, was published in 2015 and Raja Alem’s novel, The Doves’ Necklace (Duckworth), will be published in March this year, translated by Adam Talib and Katherine Halls. 2014 IPAF winner Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi has also secured English publication with Oneworld in the UK and Penguin Books in the US, in Jonathan Wright's translation.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Paul Starkey wins Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for his translation of The Book of the Sultan's Seal

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation 2015
Winner: Paul Starkey
Commended: Jonathan Wright

Paul Starkey

The 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is awarded to Paul Starkey for his translation of the novel The Book of the Sultan's Seal: Strange Incidents from History in the City of Mars by Youssef Rakha, published by Interlink Books. The translation won from the 29 titles - a record number -  translated by 25 translators which were submitted for the £3,000 Prize. The 2015 Prize was open to Arabic-English translations published between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.

Jonathan Wright is commended for his translation of Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP).

 Jonathan Wright

The four judges were Robin Ostle (Chair), Emeritus Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford; Samira Kawar, literary translator; Alastair Niven, lecturer and writer; and Susannah Tarbush, cultural journalist and blogger. They made their decision on 17 December 2015 at a meeting at the offices of the Society of Authors convened by Paula Johnson, the Administrator of the Translation Prizes, as below:

Paul Starkey for his translation of the novel The Book of the Sultan's Seal: Strange Incidents from History in the City of Mars by Youssef Rakha.

"One of the most adventurous and innovative novels to have appeared in Arabic in recent years and its English version is a tour de force of translation"

"Published at the height of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, this is one of the most adventurous and innovative novels to have appeared in Arabic in recent years and its English version is a tour de force of translation. The book is an extraordinary exploration of the profound fragmentations and contradictions which mark the personality of the protagonist Mustafa Çorbaci, and by analogy the city and the society which he inhabits. Via a series of erratic (and on occasion, erotic) journeys through his Cairo, which is at once ancient and modern, he wrestles with the dilemmas of identity which beset this journalist, intellectual and aspiring artist. The solutions which are hinted at lie more within the rich variety and inclusiveness of Arabic culture rather than in any particular ideology.

"This text confronts the translator with extraordinary challenges. It mirrors the fundamental tension in the book between the heritage and modernity by constant reference to the classical literary tradition. The author chooses the pre-modern form of "epistles" or "treatises" for his rambling narrative, and the language of the text swings from the most formal classical Arabic to the most contemporary vernacular, along with extraordinary fusions of linguistic registers. Paul Starkey addresses these problems with great skill, and has produced a masterly English version of this riotous, chaotic and often comedic story, which is also deeply moving."

Paul Starkey commented: "It is a great honour to be offered this prize – which, as with all translation prizes, I feel really belongs to the author and the text as much as to the translator. The book is not an ‘easy read', either in Arabic or in English, and with its complex, multi-layered themes and construction, translating it presented a huge challenge. But the novel is both timely and unique, and it deserves a wider audience. I very much hope that this award will help bring an exciting new novel to the attention of many new readers."

Interlink Books publisher Michel Moushabeck commented:
 "I am thrilled to hear the news that Paul Starkey's translation of Youssef Rakha's brilliant novel The Book of the Sultan's Seal has won the 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize. For the past 30 years, Interlink has had an unwavering commitment to publishing the best of Arabic literature in translation. It is such an honour and a privilege for one of our translators to be recognized by the Prize, especially as it is the first time an Interlink title has won this prestigious award after having two runner-up titles. I've been singing the praises of Youssef Rakha's debut novel set in contemporary Egypt from the moment I read it in its original Arabic. It is fresh and compelling – Rakha writes like no other novelist I've read. And I could not be happier when Paul Starkey - in my view, one of the best translators from the Arabic working today – agreed to take on the challenging job of rendering The Book of the Sultan's Seal into English. I am pleased that his superb translation has received this well-deserved recognition and I hope that this award will bring Youssef Rakha's literary masterpiece to the attention of a larger western audience."

• Paul Starkey was Professor of Arabic and Head of the Arabic Department at Durham University, UK, until his retirement in 2012. He is a former Co-Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World, and is currently Vice-President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. He has published widely in the field of modern Arabic literature, particularly Egyptian literature. He is the author of From the Ivory Tower: A Critical Study of Tawfiq Hakim (1987), and Modern Arabic Literature (2006), and with Julie Meisami was a co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (1998). His book on the Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim will be published by Edinburgh University Press later in 2016.

He has translated a number of works by contemporary Arab authors including Dear Mr Kawabata by Rashid al-Daif (Quartet, 2000); Stones of Bobello by Edwar al-Kharrat (Saqi, 2005) for the European Cultural Foundation's publishing project Mémoires de la Méditerranée; Turki al-Hamad's Shumaisi (Saqi, 2005); Mansoura Ez-Eldin's Maryam's Maze (AUC Press, 2009); parts of Samuel Shimon's An Iraqi in Paris first published by Banipal magazine and Banipal Books; Mahdi Issa Saqr's East Winds, West Winds (AUC Press, 2010); and Adania Shibli's We Are All Equally Far From Love (Interlink, 2013). He has also published a large numbers of shorter translations and reviews in Banipal, of which he is a contributing editor. He is currently working on the translation of a Syrian novel, The Shell, by Mustafa Khalifa, to be published by Interlink later in 2016.

Youssef Rakha

• Youssef Rakha
Youssef Rakha is the author of the novels The Crocodiles and The Book of the Sultan's Seal. He is a bilingual writer and photographer, and the editor of the blog The Sultan's Seal ( Born and based in Cairo, Egypt, he earned a BA in English and philosophy from Hull University, England. He is the cultural editor of Al-Ahram Weekly, the Cairo-based English-language newspaper.

Jonathan Wright for his translation of the novel Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser.

"An inspired and inspiring account of that perennial theme of the modern Arab experience: exile and return"

The judges were deeply impressed by Jonathan Wright's translation of Land of No Rain, an inspired and inspiring account of that perennial theme of modern Arab experience: exile and return. The narrative is that of the protagonist's return after twenty years in exile to a fictional Arab country where the body politic is dominated by a military dictatorship totally intent on the perpetuation of its repressive rule. Through its taut, succinct language, the reader is confronted by a succession of interlocking themes such as the workings of memory, the divided self of the narrator, and the manner in which individuals cope with threatening power in an atmosphere of constant imminent danger.

 "The outstanding feature of this book is its highly poetically charged prose which Jonathan Wright has rendered into English with a sureness of stylistic touch which does complete justice to the Arabic original."

 Jonathan Wright commented:
"I was delighted to hear that the judges decided to commend Amjad Nasser's book. The novel was one of the most subtle and intelligent literary works I've had the pleasure to translate. It is full of perceptive observations on the effects of exile on the individual and the impossibility of ever going home unchanged. It explores identity, change and the process of aging in innovative ways and simultaneously reflects the intellectual conflicts that dominated the Arab world in the late 20th century. Amjad writes with the economy and sensitivity of a poet to evoke a succession of cities across the Middle East and Europe over the past several decades. By placing the events in a nebulous allegorical framework he gives them a universal significance they might not otherwise have. I hope that the commendation encourages more people to read and enjoy Land of No Rain."

And from Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Fakhri Saleh, Head of Arabic Publishing at BQFP (now known as Hamad bin Khalifa University Press) commented: "We are very proud to work with such talented translators and writers as Jonathan Wright and Amjad Nasser. Providing access to literary works and authors from across the world through excellent translations is at the very heart of what we do at the press, and we are very proud that one of our titles has been honoured by the highly-esteemed Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation."

•Jonathan Wright
Jonathan Wright studied Arabic, Turkish and Islamic History at St. John's College, Oxford University. Between 1980 and 2009 he worked for Reuters news agency mainly in the Middle East. His latest literary translations include Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser (BQFP, 2014), commended for the 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize, and The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi (BQFP, 2015), whose original Arabic edition won the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. He was joint winner of the 2013 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for his translation of the novel Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan (Atlantic Books, 2012), whose original Arabic edition won the 2009 IPAF, and in 2014 he won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (Comma Press, 2013). He was a judge of the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize.

Wright's first literary translation, from Egyptian colloquial dialect, was Khaled al-Khamissi's Taxi (2009). Further literary translations include Hassan Blasim's The Madman of Freedom Square (Comma Press, 2009); Judgement Day by Rasha al-Ameer (AUC Press, 2012); Life on Hold by Fahd al-Atiq (AUC Press, 2012); Sleepwalkers by Said Makkawi (Dar el-Shorouk); and Bahaa Abdelmegid's Temple Bar (AUC Press, 2014).

Amjad Nasser

• Amjad Nasser
Amjad Nasser was born in Jordan in 1955. He is a major contributor to today's Arab poetry scene and prior to his debut novel Land of No Rain, has published many volumes of poetry and four travel memoirs. He was managing editor and cultural editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily newspaper for many years, and has judged a number of literary prizes, including the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

His first volume of poetry in English translation was Shepherd of Solitude (translated by Khaled Mattawa and published by Banipal Books, 2009). He has won many prizes for his poetry and performed at festivals around the world. Selected poems have been translated into English, Spanish and French

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) 2016 longlist to be announced on 12 January

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), announced today that the  longlist of IPAF 2016 - worth a total of $60,000 to the winner - will be revealed in a week's time, on Tuesday 12 January. The longlist will comprise 16 novels chosen from 159 entries from18 countries, all published within the last 12 months, submitted by 82 publishers. The number of entries has dropped by 21, approximately 12%,from the figure of 180 last year, although the number of countries has increased by 3 from last year's 15. Of the 2016 entries, 38 (24%) are by female writers, while 49 (31%) of the authors are under 40: representation of both categories has been steadily increasing since the Prize began, IPAF notes.

The identities of the five members of the IPAF 2016 judging panel will - as is customary with IPAF - not be revealed until the IPAF 2016 six-book shortlist is announced in Muscat, Oman, on Tuesday 9 February. 
The winner will be announced at ceremony in Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday 26 April 2016 to coincide with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The announcement will be followed by a post-ceremony press conference with the 2016 winner, at the same venue.

IPAF  is awarded for prose fiction in Arabic, with the winner receiving $50,000 plus the $10,000 that goes to each shortlisted finalist. The Prize was  launched in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in April 2007, and is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the TCA Abu Dhabi in the UAE. For further information see the IPAF website at