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Arab Literature Prize 2021 Candidates Announced, and each is worth a read

For this year’s edition of the Arab Literature Prize, eight books have been selected from across the Arab World. The Arab Literature Prize is awarded by the Arab World Institute in partnership with the Jean-Luc Lagardère Foundation, honoring the great wealth of Arabic literature. Created in 2013, the Arab Literature Prize is the only French award recognizing excellence in Arab literature, and strives to promote and shine the spotlight on Arab writers and their works from the past year. The winner will not only receive the prize, but also a 10,000€ award.

This year, the eight books continue to be books worth sinking your time into:

The Celestial Bodies (translated from Arabic by Khaled Osman) by Jokha Alharthi (Oman), ed. Stéphane Marsan;

This sophisticated book, taking place in Oman, tells the story of the emancipation of a country through the lives, loves, and mourning of an Omani family. It has been awarded the Man Booker International Prize, and has been translated into English and French

The theory of aubergines by Leïla Bahsaïn (Morocco), ed. Albin Michel;

The Theory of Aubergines tells the tale of Dija, a recently fired editor of an advertising agency, and her search to reinvent herself. Surrounded by a cast of endearing and colorful characters, will Dija succeed in navigating her new life away from the prestige? 

Monsieur N. (translated from Arabic by Philippe Vigreux) by Najwa M.Barakat (Lebanon), ed. South Acts;

Monsieur N explores the life of its namesake, Monsieur N, as he traces and retraces the turns of his life amidst the streets and slums of Beirut. This psychological thriller is one of the most gripping and ingenious published in recent years, and explores the violence and corruption in Lebanon through a unique and fresh point of view. 

Le silence des horizons by Beyrouk (Mauritania), ed. Elyzad;

Taking place in the Sahara desert, The Silence of the Horizons brings its audience on a journey, literally and figuratively, of the main protagonist and the memories he carries with him. Amidst the grand setting of the desert, can our hero find peace?

Last oasis of Charif Majdalani (Lebanon), ed. South Acts;

Last Oasis tells the story of a libanese archaeological specialist who travels to Iraq, following the invitation of an Iraqi official. Upon arriving at his destination, he finds himself in an oasis amidst the desert, surrounded not only by the hostile elements, but also in the midst of the war against the Islamic State. All around him are kurdish forces, mujahideen fighters, and militias. Showing the contemporary conflict, as well as the natural beauties of the region, the ast Oasis is a poignant book for our times. 

The Critical case of the so-called K. (translated from Arabic by Simon Corthay) of Aziz Mohammed (Saudi Arabia), ed. South Acts;

This debut novel by Saudi writer Aziz Muhammed tells the tale of a young Saudi man working for a petrochemical company, who does not desire the same things as his colleagues and those around him. Instead of pursuing ambition, advancement, and promotion, he begins reading Hemingway, Thomas Mann, and others, and begins writing his own thoughts. But when he tells himself that he doesn’t have much to say, something happens that turns his life upside down. 

A minor detail (translated from Arabic by Stéphanie Dujols) from Adania Shibli (Palestine), ed. Acts

Revisiting the past, A Minor Detail delves into a 1949 crime. Taking it in two different halves, the first relates to the course of the crime, through the eyes of two anonymous characters, an Israeli inspector and his victim. The second half divulges its story through the first-person perspective, by a Palestinian who is obsessed by a “minor detail” of the incident: the fact that it happened 35 years to the day before her birth. 

A prestigious jury

Chaired by Pierre Leroy, Deputy CEO of Lagardère SA, and Chairman and CEO of Hachette Livre, the 10-person jury panel consists  of artists, prominent writers, and eminent individuals from the Arab arts and culture world. Last year, the 2020 edition saw Les Jango by Abddelaziz Baraka Sakin of Sudan take home the coveted prize.

This year’s results will be announced this autumn.