International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces shortlist for 2021 award 

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces shortlist for 2021 award 
The winner will be revealed on May 25. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 March 2021

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces shortlist for 2021 award 

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces shortlist for 2021 award 

DUBAI: The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has announced its six shortlisted authors who are competing to receive a $50,000 award when the winner is revealed on May 25. Read on to learn more about the writers and their novels. 

Abdulatif Ould Abdullah - ‘The Eye of Hammurabi’

In the Algerian writer’s book “The Eye of Hammurabi,” he opens with the interrogation of a man in a military encampment after he fled from the angry inhabitants of Douar Sidi Majdoub. 

As the story unfolds, the main character revisits his past to explore the roots of his present dilemma and tells stories which blend imagination and reality, illusion and the truth.

Jalal Bargas - ‘Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper’

‘Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper’ is by Jordanian poet and novelist Jalal Bargas. Set between 1947 and 2019, this novel is based on several notebooks of stories about people facing different hardships, such as losing their homes or not knowing who their family are. 

The main character is Ibrahim, a bookshop keeper, a cultured man and voracious reader of novels. However, due to his isolation, loneliness and maltreatment by a cruel world, he suffers mental illness and descends into full schizophrenia. He attempts suicide, before meeting the woman who will change his life.  

Amira Ghenim- ‘The Calamity of the Nobility’

The Tunisian writer and academic’s book “The Calamity of the Nobility” relates an untold story from Tunisia’s contemporary history about renowned author, scholar and reformer El-Taher El-Haddad. 

Although historical references do not mention anything about his relationship with women, except for his desperate defense of them, the author adds an imaginary love affair with a woman called Lella Zubaida to her fictional retelling of his life. 

The novel gives prominence to the voices of female narrators, as custodians of memory who contradict a distorted, patriarchal version of history.    

Dunya Mikhail- ‘The Bird Tattoo'

The Iraqi author’s “The Bird Tattoo” is a painful novel about the sale of Yazidi women in Iraq by Daesh. 

It focuses on Helen and Elias, who fall in love and marry, and their experiences with the group. Alongside this tragedy, the novel sheds light on aspects of Yazidi folklore, rich in customs and legends.

Abdelmajid Sebbata - ‘File 42’

“File 42,” by Moroccan author Abdelmajid Sebbata, follows two parallel storylines. In the first, Christine Macmillan, a successful American novelist, and Rasheed Benaser, a young Moroccan researcher and doctoral student, embark on an investigation to find the unknown author of a forgotten Moroccan novel from 1989, in which Christine’s father, Steve, appears as one of the characters. 

The second plot line is narrated by Zuheir Belqasem, a rich and delinquent Moroccan teenager who assaults Al-Ghalia, an underaged maid. His mother uses her influence as a prominent lawyer to close the case and send him to Russia to pursue his university studies. However, horrors await him there which no-one had foreseen.

Habib Selmi- ‘Longing for the Woman Next Door’

The Tunisian author’s book tells the story of two neighbors who have nothing in common, apart from both being Tunisian and living in the same apartment building. 

He is in his sixties, educated and married to a Frenchwoman. She is several years younger and from a lower social stratum, and married to an eccentric man. At first, he is cautious and patronizing. But later, the rules of the game change. The novel explores a rich, turbulent and extraordinary relationship, which celebrates life in its simplest and most beautiful manifestations but is also tinged with darkness and tragedy.