The 2023 Shortlisted Authors at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair


The 2023 IPAF shortlisted authors, including the winner Zahran Alqasmi, took part in a number of events at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair after the winner announcement last Sunday.

In the annual session with the Sea of Culture foundation, writer Ann Safi moderated an insightful discussion about the shortlisted novels.

Miral Al-Tahawi said that her novel, to a certain extent, reflects her personal experience as an immigrant. As a mother, she had been afraid for her teenage son, who was discriminated against, and this made her question whether the longed-for safety of exile can really be achieved.

Nagwa Bin Shatwan discussed how twinning was portrayed in her novel at many levels: twinning with one’s country and twinning within a family. She explored the dimensions and meaning of this twinning in relation to feelings and shortcomings. She also wondered how people often look for differences between twins while they feel as if they are one.

In a session organized by the Abu Dhabi Book Fair titled “Championing a new world of Arabic fiction,” IPAF trustee Yassin Adnan gave audiences glimpses into the worlds of each novel. Siddik Hadj-Ahmed spoke about the genesis of the novel, which occurred during a journey to the desert to conduct research for his Master’s thesis. He said that he had had no intention of being a novelist but when he met a sheikh and heard his story, he felt creatively coerced into writing Drought.

Azher Jirjees spoke of the mutually enrichening relationship between fiction and photography, highlighting the importance of photos, the best historians, since they never lie.

Zahran Alqasmi discussed his views on poetry and prose in The Water Diviner. He said he made an effort to avoid falling into linguistic ambiguities, but kept poetic images, such as that of the main character’s birth.

Alqasmi also took part in a session entitled “15 Years of Groundbreaking Global Arabic Literature” alongside previous IPAF winners Jalal Barjas and Saud Alsanousi, moderated by Mona Salman. The authors shed light on how winning impacted them personally, and also discussed with audience members how the Prize has encouraged reading in the Arab World and plunged readers into unfamiliar worlds.