The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has gained more and more prominence since its launch in 2007. Run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the TCA Abu Dhabi in the UAE, its purpose is to encourage recognition of high quality Arabic fiction and to increase international readership through translation. In early February, a shortlist of this year's nominees was published, followed by the announcement of the winner of IPAF 2014 on 29 April. Like last year, ACMES organised a literary nadwa, a debate, in order to discuss the selected novels.
The authors on this year's shortlist were Youssef Fadel (Morocco), Abdelrahim Lahbibi (Morocco), Inaam Kachachi (Iraq), Khaled Khalifa (Syria), Ahmed Mourad (Egypt), and Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq). A panel chaired by ACMES director Robbert Woltering discussed the qualities and chances of winning of all shortlisted novels. Other panel members were translator Rehab Chaker, PhD student Leila Cherribi, and journalist and student Lucia Admiraal.
Like last year, when Saud Alsanousi's Saq al-Bambu (The Bamboo Stick) emerged victorious, there is a great variety between the nominated novels, both in literary styles and themes. The Iraqi books, Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad and Tashari, by Inaam Kachachi (the only female author on this year's list), discuss Iraqi disunity and diaspora respectively. Moroccan author Youssef Fadel, too, ventures into the political in his novel on the disappearance of an army pilot during the 'years of lead', while his fellow countryman Lahbibi works with the double storyline of a researcher who finds and edits an old travel manuscript and the storyline of the manuscript itself. The fifth book on the list, by Egyptian author Ahmed Mourad, has something of a crime novel about it. Lastly, the sixth and final contestant, Khaled Khalifa's No Knives in this City's Kitchen, reflects on the suffering of Syria and the Syrian people under a despotic regime.
After an in-depth discussion of the various candidates, it was time for the actual awards ceremony. Shortly after the announcement of the winner, which turned out to be Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad, IPAF-organisers Evelyn Smith and Yasser Suleiman contacted the nadwa panel and public over Skype in order to discuss the jury's verdict.
For an elaborate overview of the subjects discussed and opinions voiced during this year's nadwa, see 'Nadwa!' in ZemZem 1/2014 (in Dutch).