International Prize for Arabic Fiction holds first winner tour of United States


The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) organised its first bilingual author tour of America with 2013 Kuwaiti winner Saud Alsanousi and his translator Jonathan Wright last month.


Designed to encourage the readership of high quality Arabic literature in the US, the 10-day tour, which concluded at the end of October, was hosted by comparative and Arabic literature departments in leading American universities across the East Coast.


The nine public events—which featured a talk, reading and Q&A session, and were complemented by Arabic music in a couple of instances—were held at:


  • Amherst College, University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts;
  • Georgetown University, Washington D.C.;
  • University of Delaware, Newark;
  • Harvard University and Brookline Booksmith Bookshop, Cambridge;
  • Middlebury College, Vermont;
  • New York University: Abu Dhabi, New York.

The tour fits with the Prize’s overarching goal to raise the profile of Arab authors and Arabic fiction internationally. There are plans for future US tours in both the Midwest and West Coast, including Illinois, Michigan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.


Michel Moushabeck, trustee for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and founder of Interlink Publishing, who led the tour, said:


‘The response to the first US IPAF Book Tour has been overwhelming. Holding this book tour helps give American readers the opportunity to meet and interact with an award-winning Arab novelist and his translator. This is a huge step forward in promoting Arabic literature-in-translation and fulfilling an important part of IPAF’s mission.’


Saud Alsanousi, a Kuwaiti novelist and journalist, was 31 when he won the Prize for The Bamboo Stalk, making him the youngest author to win. Acclaimed as ‘ambitious, cultivated and brave’ by the Financial Times, the novel is an unflinching look at the lives of foreign workers in Arab countries as it tells the story of Issa, the son of a Kuwaiti father and a Filipino mother, and confronts the universal issues of identity, race and religion.


As part of its commitment to the international promotion of Arabic literature, the Prize funded the English translation of the novel by acclaimed translator Jonathan Wright, which was then published in 2015 in the UK and US by Bloomsbury. The novel has since been translated into Farsi, Icelandic, Romanian and Turkish, with forthcoming publications due in Chinese, Italian and Korean.


Saud Alsanousi, winner of the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, comments:


‘It was definitely a new and important experience for me personally, and a great leap forward for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The tour fulfilled one of the basic aims of the Prize, to make the Arabic novel more visible and prominent in the West. This first book tour was hugely successful on every level. Leading American universities were chosen and staff and students were enthusiastic about the events, which were well attended by people from within the universities and outside. The quality of the questions showed that audiences wanted to know more about the modern Arabic novel and people were keen to buy the book after each event. The book tour was also an opportunity to be in the company of the translator Jonathan Wright. He was a great addition to the tour, given his experience working with novels, and he spoke about his work in the field of translation and all it entails. I hope that the Prize will continue to include this tour among its activities, since it is one of the most significant initiatives taken so far. I believe that in the next few years we will begin to see the effect of this new step, which will be positive for the Arabic novel and its presence worldwide.’


The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).


For further information about the Prize, please visit or follow the Prize on Facebook @InternationalPrizeforArabicFiction