About the Prize
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is the most prestigious and important literary prize in the Arab world.
Its aim is to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage the readership of high quality Arabic literature internationally through the translation and publication of winning and shortlisted novels in other major languages.
Extracts from the 2020 shortlisted novels are available to read online in the Book of Excerpts here.
In addition to the Prize itself, IPAF supports other literary initiatives. In 2009 IPAF launched its inaugural Nadwa (writers’ workshop) for emerging writers of fiction in Arabic.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is currently sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, under the umbrella of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, and has been mentored by the Booker Prize Foundation in London.
Although the Prize is often referred to as the ‘Arabic Booker’, this is not instigated nor endorsed at all by IPAF or the Booker Prize Foundation which are two completely separate, independent organisations. IPAF is not in any way connected with The Booker Prize.
The annual International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is given to a novel in Arabic which IPAF's judges consider to be the best of that year.
The Prize is a trailblazer in the Arab world in its commitment to the independence, transparency and integrity of its judging process.
IPAF was launched in Abu Dhabi in April 2007. Its origin was a suggestion that a prize modelled on the internationally acclaimed Booker Prizes would encourage recognition of high quality Arabic fiction, reward Arab writers and lead to increased international readership through translation. At the launch, the founding IPAF Chair of Trustees, Jonathan Taylor, said: “I believe that this Prize will reward and bring recognition and readership to outstanding writers in Arabic. I look forward to seeing more high-quality Arabic fiction being accessible to a wider world.”
Each year IPAF's Board of Trustees selects a new panel of five judges. The judges may be literary critics, writers and academics from the Arab world and beyond. To underline the international dimension of the Prize, one judge is always a non Arab, who is not necessarily a fluent speaker and sophisticated reader of Arabic.
The judges read all the novels submitted (in recent years this has been more than 150). They meet together three times, first to decide a longlist of sixteen, then to refine this to a shortlist of six, and finally to choose which of the shortlist is the winner. The judges can have no regard to external influences and opinions, nor to issues of nationality, religion, politics, gender or age. But with only these essential parameters, once appointed the judges are free to make their decisions as to what should be recognised as “the best” as they see fit. This independence and integrity of the judging process is of fundamental importance for the Prize.
Why has the Prize achieved such recognition and acclaim in its relatively short history? A clue is in this comment by Jonathan Taylor: “Impact is the essence of a successful literary prize. It needs to be discussed; argued about; criticised; and even sometimes praised! There may be lively disagreement about who is included and who is excluded from the longlist and the shortlist. And the eventual winner may provoke fierce debate as well as great acclaim.”
The winner announcement takes place at a gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi in spring. The shortlisted authors each receive $10,000 US. The winning author goes on to receive a further $50,000 US, with a commitment that IPAF will meet the cost of translation of the winning novel into English to help underwrite its publication for an English speaking readership.
IPAF also actively encourages the translation of all shortlisted novels into other languages. Recognition by IPAF brings attention from publishers worldwide. So novels associated with IPAF can look forward to increased readership and sales both within the Arab world and internationally through translation.