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Everything you need to know about the world's great writers and emerging voices is being collected and shared on the English PEN Online World Atlas. Head over to the Atlas to create (or edit) a profile for your favourite author or book, leave a comment or contact another user, and discover your next great read. We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.

The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And the 2nd Arabic "Booker" goes to...

Well, we won’t know until 16 March 2009, when the winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi one day before the start of the city’s International Book Fair.

Out of 131 submissions from 15 countries, six literary works have been shortlisted by the international panel of experts of Arabic literature coming from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Germany:

Hunger by Egyptian novelist Mohammed Al Bisatie

The Unfaithful Translator by Syrian author Fawwaz Haddad

The American Granddaughter by Iraqi writer Inaam Kachachi

Time of White Horses by Ibrahim Nasrallah from Jordan

The Scents of Marie-Claire by Tunisian author Al-Habib Al-Salmi

Beelzebub by Egyptian writer Yusuf Zeydan

While these six great writers have to wait for three months for the ceremony at which the prestigious literary prize will be awarded together with $60,000, international readers have already won. The shortlisted candidates can expect their works to be translated and thus gain a wider readership, just like the winner of the inaugural prize „Sunset Oasis“ by Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher, which is currently being translated into English and six other languages.

"I think this shows we are succeeding in bringing Arabic writers to a wider readership, and perhaps in a way [the prize] contributes a bit to understanding that the Arabic world isn't just Islamic fundamentalists, but is a culture and civilisation which goes back for centuries and centuries," said Jonathan Taylor, chair of the prize's board of trustees. And gaining international appeal is what the prize funded by the Emirates Foundation together with the Booker Prize Foundation is all about. The shortlist has been announced in London and covered by international media. "The purpose of the prize is to recognise and reward high quality Arabic fiction, and to bring it to a wider audience through securing translations," he said.

But where are all the outstanding female authors that the Arab world has to offer? Only 17 submissions came from women, a lower proportion than last year, and Inaam Kachachi is the only one of them who made it onto the shortlist. Let’s hope that we will get closer to Taylor’s optimistic figure, “We want to get 50/50“, next year.

Have your say! Follow the links above to tell us what you think about the shortlisted books. Have you read anything by Ibrahim Nasrallah, whose writing is frequently challenged by censorship in Jordan? Do you want to know more about Inaam Kachachi or Yusuf Zeydan?

And don’t forget to read about the other 10 longlisted novels:

The Bottle and the Genie, Mohammad Abu Maatouk

The Tobacco Guard, Ali Badr

The Man From Andalucia, Salem Hameesh

Prayer For The Family, Renée Hayek

Confessions, Rabih Jaber

Platoon Of Ruin, Abdel Kareem Jouaitly

The Tumour, Ibrahim Al Koni

Black Taste, Black Odour, Ali Al Muqri

Intensive Care, Izzedin Shukri

Ma’ Al Sama’, Yehya Yekhlef

And for some insight into the reality of publishing in the Arab world, don't miss this article by Rasheed El-Nany, one of the judges for the 2009 Arabic "Booker", in the National (UAE).


Delirium's Librarian said...

Are the Arabic papers naming any favourites? With the Nobel and Booker it's always fun to see who gets it right (and, this year, mostly wrong ;). My bet, knowing nothing about any of the novels, would be either Hunger (because it sounds drily witty from the write-up on the Atlas, and because a film with the same title won the Camera D'Or this year at Cannes) or Ibrahim Nasrallah's novel. Just because.

Also, on a tangent, any translator of "The Unfaithful Translator" has a real challenge ahead of them, working under that title!

Malgo said...

Good question. I haven't seen anything in Arabic newspapers.
So, let's ask what readers in the Arab world think!!

susie said...

But actually the female representation among our Man Booker authors isn't vastly better than among the Arab Booker. The Man Booker longlist this year had 3 women on the 13-book longlist, the Arab Booker longlistof 16 had 2. Both shortlists have/had one woman. Surely the difficulty in women getting shortlisted for the Booker was one reason for the founding of the Orange prize. Maybe there could be a Bortuqal equivalent for Arab women writers. In 1993 or so Pat Barker spoke bitterly at Ways for Words at Dartington about the difficulties women writers were having with the Booker. (Mind you, she then went and won it for The Ghost Road in 1995).
So far the juries for the Arab Booker have been heavily male, so to speak. The chairman for 2009 is Youmma El Eid, but her four fellow judges are men. For IPAF 2008 there was only one female judge, Syrian writer Ghalia Kabbani. Man Booker's five judges regularly include two or three women. Not that the gender of judges necessarily implies anything about the gender of writers long- or shortlisted.

PEN Atlas said...

It's a good point, Susie (and reminds me that every year as the Orange prize shortlist is announced, various opinion-makers declare an all-female prize obsolete -- and then the Booker shortlist is often male-dominated. Even a female-dominated shortlist -- as for the Turner Prize this year -- doesn't necessarily mean a female winner). A Bortuqal prize would be an exciting idea...

The Tanjara has more facts on this year's IPAF: http://thetanjara.blogspot.com/2008/12/arab-booker-shortlist.html, including that 10 books submitted for consideration were declared "unsuitable" (why?) and that five of the six books on the shortlist come from Beiruti publishers (the last, Azazel, from Dar al-Shorouk in Cairo).

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