The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has released a longlist of 16 titles ahead of the award annoucement in May. A record five female novelists have made the cut, including Egyptian Muna al-Sheemi with The Size of a Grape and Jana El Hassan’s Floor 99. IPAF coordinator Fleur Montenaro said that although about 22% of submissions this year came from female writers "the relatively high number of women is coincidental, since the judges make their decisions based on the quality of writing rather than any other consideration." El Hassan commented that Arab authors mark themselves out from Anglophone counterparts by offering new perspectives on war, instability and identity. These themes are present in novels such as Yemeni Habib Abdulrab Sarori’s The Daughter of Huslov, Tunisian Shukri al-Mabkhout’s The Italian, and Moroccan Mohamed Berrada’s Far From the Clamour, Close to Silence, which grapple with the post-colonial struggles of the Middle East.
The prize has, since 2009, broadened the reach of Arabic fiction. This month, the English rights for 2014 winner Frankenstein of Baghdad were purchased by OneWorld/Penguin US while 2013 winner Saud Al Sanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk will be published in English this year by BQFP.
Read more about the prize at IPAF
Image: 'Graphite' by Hisham Al Khashin