In Translation

Read the Writers Shortlisted for 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

M. Lynx Qualey

Staff Writer

M. Lynx Qualey is the founder of, a website that brings together translators, authors, publishers, critics, academics, and readers around discussions of Arabic literature in translation. She works as a book critic, reader, editor, and ghostwriter. You can follow her at @arablit.

On February 5, judges announced the shortlist for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. While the first book from the shortlist won’t appear in English until 2020, four of the six shortlistees already have work in English translation.

Tiller of Waters by Hoda BarakatShortlisted Author: Hoda Barakat

Hoda Barakat’s The Night Post made the shortlist. This marks the first time this acclaimed Lebanese novelist has been recognized by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

However, Barakat is no stranger to acclaim. She won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel Tiller of Waters and the al-Nagid Award for The Stone of Laughter. In 2002 she became Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and then the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite National in 2008. In 2015, she was  a finalist for the Man Booker International. She was previously a finalist for the Man Booker International and has received the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite National.

The Night Post is forthcoming from OneWorld in 2020, in Robin Moger’s translation. Before that, get familiar with Barakat’s work.

Recommended read: Tiller of Waters, translated by Marilyn Booth.

The Tales of Yusuf TadrosShortlisted Author: Adel Esmat

Egyptian author Adel Esmat was shortlisted for his acclaimed novel The Commandments. Like Barakat, Esmat has also previously won the 2016 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his Tales of Yusuf Tadros. That novel has since appeared in Mandy McClure’s luminous English translation.

Tales of Yusuf Tadros follows the life of a rural Egyptian Coptic teacher who pushes against the boundaries of his life.

Recommended read: Tales of Yusuf Tadrostranslated by Mandy McClure.

Shortlisted Author: Inaam Kachachi

Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi makes the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for the third time this year, with her critically acclaimed novel The Outcast. Kachachi was winner of the 2016 Prix de la Littérature Arabe for a French translation of her novel Tashari. Her novel American Granddaughter was translated by Nariman Yousef. However, because the publisher broke apart, it has fallen out of print.

Kachachi also has a lovely short story, “Nude in Waziriyya of Baghdad.” It was translated by Rula Baalbaki and published in Arab Women Voice New Realities.

Recommended read: “Nude in Waziriyya of Baghdad,” translated by Rula Baalbaki.

Shortlisted Author: Shahla Ujayli

Syrian novelist Shahla Ujayli is no stranger to awards, either. In 2016, her A Sky So Close to Us made the IPAF shortlist. In 2017, her collection Bed for the King’s Daughter won the 2017 Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story. Now, in 2019, her Summer with the Enemy made another IPAF shortlist.

Her novel A Sky So Close to Us, translated by Michelle Hartman, explores the trauma of cancer treatment set against the trauma of Syria’s civil war. In an interview that has yet to appear, translator Michelle Hartman said: “I find Shahla Ujayli’s writing about cancer direct, honest, and very, very real.” Indeed, it is.

Recommended read:A Sky So Close to Ustranslated by Michelle Hartman.

Shortlisted Authors: Mohammed Al-Maazuz & Kafa Al-Zou’bi

Moroccan author Mohammed Al Maazuz was shortlisted for his second novel, What Sin Caused her to Die? Jordanian writer Kafa Al-Zou’bi was shortlisted for her novel Cold White Sun. 

Al-Maazuz, a previous winner of the Moroccan Book Prize, has not yet appeared in translation. However, for Russophiles: at least two of Kafa Al-Zou’bi’s previous novels have appeared in Russian. Her fourth novel, Go Back Home, Khalil (2009), was published only in Russian.