In addition to the winnings of $ 50,000, funds will be provided for the English translation of the book.
A book of hope amid homelessness and poverty won the 2021 International Prize for Arab Fiction (IPAF) on Tuesday.
Jordanian poet and novelist Jalal Barjas’s “Librarian Notebooks”, and published by the Arab Institute for Research and Publishing, was named this year’s winner in a virtual ceremony.
Describing the book, Chawki Bazih, chairman of the judges, said: “Along with its rich, refined language and tight, thrilling plot, this daring winning novel stands out for Jalal Barjas’ impressive ability to strip the face masks of reality. tragic. The author presents us with the darkest portraits of homelessness and poverty, where meaning has been lost and hope torn by the roots, turning life into a realm of nightmares. Despite this, the novel does not call for despair. On the contrary, through him, the author says that reaching the depths of pain is a necessary condition for finding new dreams and hopefully standing up on firmer ground.
Barjas said: “Thank you to the International Prize for Arab Fiction which has opened all these beautiful avenues for readers so that my words can reach them. With these words, I have tried to sow joy in the field of humanity.
In addition to the $ 50,000 winnings, funding will be provided for the English translation of Notebooks of the Bookseller, and the 51-year-old author can look forward to international recognition and increased sales of his title.
Set in Jordan and Moscow between 1947 and 2019, Notebooks of the Bookseller tells the story of Ibrahim, a voracious bookseller and reader, who loses his shop and finds himself in the streets. In the grip of schizophrenia, he assumes the identity of the protagonists of the novels he loved, to commit a series of crimes of burglary, theft and murder. He tries to kill himself, before meeting the woman who will change his life. This story and others are told through a series of notebooks and multiple narrators whose paths sometimes collide. It is the painful and fragmented story of marginalized people who are ignored or invisible to others, as a corrupt ruling class flourishes. In this context, the importance of the house is highlighted, as a symbol of the homeland. Barjas’ novel boldly tackles a difficult reality not only in Jordan but in the Arab world as a whole.
The International Arabic Fiction Prize is an annual literary award for novels in Arabic and is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center, at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and has been sponsored by the Booker Prize Foundation at London.
Professor Yasir Suleiman CBE, Chairman of the IPAF Board of Directors, said: “Speaking of times of unprecedented change, burgeoning corruption and simmering turmoil hissing in the background, Notebooks of the Bookseller reflects on life of those who have been left behind in an alienating and expanding cityscape, mercilessly displacing the privacy of ancient times and the obligations of age-old norms. The intersecting tales of the novel mark multiple descents in ruthless despair. Sometimes pacy, but often slow and rich in detail, the novel paints a striking picture of social and psychological fracture in general.
Notebooks of the Bookseller was chosen by the IPAF judges as the best work of fiction published in Arabic between July 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020 from a shortlist of six novels by authors from Algeria, Iraq , Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. Shortlisted finalists Abdulatif Ould Abdullah, Amira Ghenim, Dunya Mikhail, Jalal Barjas, Habib Selmi and Abdelmajid Sebbata will each receive $ 10,000.
Barjas is a Jordanian poet and novelist born in 1970. He works in the field of aeronautical engineering. For many years he wrote articles for Jordanian newspapers and headed several cultural organizations. He currently runs the Jordanian Narrative Laboratory and presents a radio program called “House of the Novel”. His published work includes two collections of poetry, short stories, travel literature and novels. His short story The Earthquakes (2012) won the Jordanian Rukus ibn Zaid Uzayzi award. His novel ‘Guillotine of the Dreamer’ (2013) won the Jordanian Rifqa Doudin Prize for Narrative Creativity in 2014, and ‘Snakes of Hell’ won the 2015 Katara Prize for Arabic Novel, in the Unpublished Novel category, and was published by Katara. in 2016. Her third novel “Women of the Five Senses” (2017) was selected by IPAF in 2019.
Some of the winning novels published in English include The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat (translated as Voices of the Lost, Oneworld); Rabai al-Madhoun’s Fractured Fates: Concerto on the Holocaust and the Nakba (Hoopoe); L’Italien by Shukri Mabkhout (Europa editions); Frankenstein by Ahmed Saadawi in Baghdad (Oneworld, UK, and Penguin Books, USA); Saud Alsanousi’s bamboo stalk; The Bow and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari; Raja Alem’s Dove Necklace (Duckworth, UK, and Overlook Press, USA); Abdo Khal’s spitting sparks as big as castles; Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan (Atlantic Books); and Sunset Oasis (Scepter) by Bahaa Taher.
Since the start of 2020, a number of award-winning novels have been published in English, including All the Women Inside Me by Jana Elhassan (shortlisted in 2013 as Me, She and the Other Women), translated by Michelle Hartman and published by Interlink Books (USA); The Slave Yards by Najwa Bin Shatwan (shortlisted in 2017), translated by Nancy Roberts and published by Syracuse University Press; The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous (shortlisted in 2018), translated by Elisabeth Jaquette and published by Knopf; The Critical Case of a Man Called K by Aziz Muhammed (shortlisted as the Critical Case of ‘K’ in 2018), translated by Humphrey Davies and published by Hoopoe; Rasha Adley’s Braided Haired Girl (listed as Passion in 2018) and Omaima Al-Khamis ‘The Book Smuggler (listed as Cranes’ Journey through Agate Cities in 2019), both translated by Sarah Enany and published by Hoopoe; Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli (shortlisted in 2019) and; The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (shortlisted in 2020), translated by Paula Haydar and published by Interlink Books (USA).
This year will also see the English translation of Hot Maroc by Yassin Adnan (selected in 2017), translated by Alex Elinson and published by Syracuse University Press; and Firewood of Sarajevo by Said Khatibi (shortlisted in 2020), translated by Paul Starkey and published by Banipal Publishing.