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Saudi Author Among Six Nominees for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

The 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction has unveiled its shortlist comprising six novels, with the winner set to be unveiled during an event on April 28 in Abu Dhabi. The selected works include "Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009" by Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia, "Gambling on the Honor of Lady Mitsy" by Ahmed Al-Morsi from Egypt, "The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem" by Osama Al-Eissa from Palestine, "A Mask, the Color of the Sky" by Basim Khandaqji, also from Palestine, "Suleima’s Ring" by Rima Bali from Syria, and "The Mosaicist" by Eissa Nasiri from Morocco.

Nabil Suleiman, the head of the 2024 judging panel, disclosed the nominated titles during an announcement in Riyadh, joined by jury members including Hammour Ziada, Sonia Nimr, Frantisek Ondras, Mohammed Shoair, Yasir Suleiman, and Fleur Montanaro. The competition is held in collaboration with the Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission.

Yasir Suleiman highlighted the significance of Basim Khandaqji's inclusion, noting it as the first instance of a novel penned from within an Israeli jail reaching readers across borders. Khandaqji, imprisoned since 2004, utilized his academic pursuits in political science, including a focus on Israeli studies, to craft his shortlisted novel.

Suleiman expressed hope for Khandaqji's release, emphasizing the thematic depth of the shortlisted works which delve into diverse narratives spanning various historical contexts and demographic landscapes. He emphasized themes such as war, family dynamics, identity, oppression, and the yearning for freedom and justice.

Nabil Suleiman echoed this sentiment, describing the narratives as intricately weaving past, present, and future while delving into the complexities of human experience and societal conflicts.

Mohammed Shoair emphasized the diversity in Arabic novels, noting an exploration of history as a tool for creating innovative fictional forms. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction aims to recognize excellence in contemporary Arabic literature and increase its global reach through translation and publication of shortlisted works. Each shortlisted writer receives a $10,000 award, with the winner receiving a $50,000 prize.

The English translation of the 2022 winning novel, "Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table" by Mohammed Alnaas, is slated for publication this year, furthering the prize's mission to promote Arabic literature worldwide.

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