Today, Tuesday 24 January 2022, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2023 prize, which will award $50,000 to the ultimate winner.
IPAF Longlist 2023 — synopses and biographies
Ahmad Abdulatif is an Egyptian novelist, translator, journalist and researcher, born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1978 and currently living in Madrid, Spain. He has a BA in Spanish Language and Literature, an MA in Arabic Literature, and is preparing his doctoral thesis on the Arabic novel for the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has published eight novels. His first, The Keymaker (2010), won the 2011 Egyptian State Encouragement Prize; his third, The Book of the Sculptor (2013), won the 2015 Sawiris Cultural Award; and his fifth, The Earthen Fortress, was IPAF-longlisted in 2018, translated into Spanish in 2019, and then shortlisted for the 2020 Sawiris Cultural Award. Abdulatif has written and translated for the cultural press since 2003, and has translated more than thirty books from Spanish into Arabic. In 2013, he won the Egyptian National Centre for Translation Award for his translation of Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand by Gioconda Belli.
The Ages of Daniel in the City of Threads
The novel is a dystopic allegory about the apocalypse, set in a nameless city of threads, or dolls, which might be a macabre projection of Cairo. In the opening scene, naked men with their throats cut are laid out around a fountain in the shape of a flower. Daniel meanwhile has been shot and is the only one still fully clothed; the narrative works backward to explain why. Several Daniels appear in the story, each numbered to represent different stages of his life. Daniel 2 works in an oppressive archive where there are files on the whole population, and there he reads about Daniel 1, a younger version of himself, who lived in the days before the apocalyptic flood, suffered sexual abuse committed by his teacher and took revenge on him. The novel has a unique narrative and linguistic style, with frequent repeated refrains and a lack of punctuation when Daniel 2 speaks, reinforcing its uncanny, nightmarish quality.
Fatima Abdulhamid is a Saudi Arabian writer, born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1982. She graduated with a BA in Psychology and previously worked as a teacher before becoming a psychologist. She has published a short story collection entitled Like a Paper Plane (2010) and three novels: The Edge of Silver (2013), F for Female (2016), and The Highest Part of the Horizon (2022).
The Highest Part of the Horizon
The Highest Part of the Horizon is a satirical black comedy, narrated by Azrael, the Angel of Death. He confides in the reader directly about his mission and describes the lives of people he encounters and what they say to him when he arrives to tell them their time is up. Through him, we meet Suleiman, a widower in his fifties, whose mother married him off when he was thirteen to a woman eleven years his senior. All his life, Suleiman has been looked after by various women, and in his weakness, he is a counterpoint to the stereotypical image of the macho Arab man. Left alone in his flat, Suleiman has a new, unexpected beginning when he falls in love with a neighbour he glimpses in the house opposite. Combining magical realism and psychological exploration, The Farthest Horizon seems to imply that planning and predicting the future are impossible, since you will be tricked by life and death, and whatever your choices may be, much is down to chance.
Al-Sadiq Haj Ahmed is an Algerian writer, born in Adrar, Algeria, in 1967. He works at the Arts College of Adrar University as a lecturer in General Linguistics and Linguistic Discourse, and is a lead researcher in narratives from the Sahara. He won the Ministry of Culture’s State Appreciation Prize for his writing connected to the Sahara. He has published three novels: The Kingdom of Ziwan (2013), Comrade (2016), and Drought (2021).
Drought tackles a new subject in the Arabic novel: the fate of the Tuareg, who fled their lands after the 1973 drought which hit the Sahara in the north of Mali, and headed towards southern Algeria and Libya, settling in refugee camps there. From 1980, they were used by Gaddafi in wars in Chad and Lebanon in exchange for a promise of an independent Azawan state in northern Mali. Having endured conflict and imprisonment in camps in Chad, they gave up hope that Gaddafi would fulfil his promise, and began a series of revolts against the regimes in Mali and Niger. The novel’s narrator is one of the refugees, who has recorded his story and that of his son on a badly stained manuscript found in a box. It covers the major political and social developments which occurred in the region in the forty years before the fall of Gaddafi in 2011.
Zahran Alqasmi is an Omani poet and novelist, born in Dima Wattayeen in the Sultanate of Oman in 1974. He has published four novels: Mountain of the Horseradish Tree (2013), The Sniper (2014), Hunger for Honey (2017), and Exile of the Water Diviner (2021), as well as ten poetry collections and Biography of the Stone 1 (short story collection, 2009) and Biography of the Stone 2 (non-fiction, 2011).
The Exile of the Water Diviner
In its Arabic meaning, a “narrator” is someone who – literally – “waters” people and satisfies their thirst, and The Exile of the Water Diviner restores this original function to its narrator. Set in an Omani village, it tells the story of a water diviner employed by the villages to track springs of water hidden deep in the earth. Since birth, his life has had a profound connection with water: His mother drowned, and his father was buried when the roof of one of the water channels – or aflaj – collapsed on him. The diviner himself ends up imprisoned in a water channel, battling for his life. The novel’s subject matter is a new departure in the Arabic novel, steeped in the history of the aflaj, a farming system of garden irrigation which is inextricably linked to village life in Oman, and has become the inspiration of many stories and legends.
Najwa Binshatwan is a Libyan academic and novelist, born in Ajdabiya, Libya, in 1970. She was the first Libyan author to be shortlisted, in 2017, for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, for her novel The Slave Yards (2016). She has written three other novels: The Horses’ Hair (2007), Orange Content (2008) and Concerto Qurina Eduardo (2022). She was chosen as one of the 39 best Arab authors under the age of 40 by the Beirut39 project (2009-2010) organized by the Hay Festival, and her story ‘The Pool and the Piano’ was included in the Beirut39 anthology. In 2018, Binshatwan won a Banipal fellowship for creative writing. In 2019, her short story collection Serendipity (2019) was longlisted for the Al-Multaqa Short Story Prize, and her collection Catalogue of a Private Life (2018) won the English Pen Translates Award.
Concerto Qurina Eduardo
A coming-of-age novel about a young girl in Libya, her extended family, and how their lives are affected by politics and war, in a narrative rich in characters and perspectives. She belongs to a family with Greek origins, an ethnic minority who have their own distinctive culture in multi-ethnic Libyan society. Through her eyes, we view the changes which occurred in Libya from the 1970s until the revolution which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011 and the civil war in 2014. The novel describes her father’s killing during a period known as the ‘cultural revolution’ in Libya, the nationalization of the family’s factory, and the impact of this huge economic change upon them. Binshatwan weaves together complex themes including the experience of Libyan Jews, and their emigration or expulsion in the 1960s; the civil war and its effects on the social fabric of society; the smuggling of ancient artefacts and mistreatment of Libyan cultural heritage; and the cultural and ethnic exchanges between Mediterranean peoples.
Lina Huyan Elhassan is a Syrian novelist, born in the desert near Hama, Syria, in 1975, currently living in Beirut, Lebanon. She obtained a Diploma in Advanced Philosophy Studies from Damascus University, and has worked as a journalist in Lebanon since 2003. She has published nine works of fiction and non-fiction, including novels, poetry and studies of the Syrian desert. Her novel Diamonds and Women (2015) was IPAF-shortlisted, and she took part in the Prize’s Nadwa (workshop) for talented young writers in 2010. Her three novels for young adults were all shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, from 2016 to 2018, and a book of travel writing, The Fairy’s Heel (2022), won the 2022 Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature, in the Contemporary Journey category.
The Ruler of the Two Fortresses
The heroine of the novel, Khatun Al-Maghouliya, is one of the last female practitioners of magic and divination in Syria. Her daughter, now a young woman, disapproved of her mother’s profession and left her home to study philosophy in Damascus, far from the influence and reputation of her mother. Khatun disappears just before some factions of ISIS invade the north-eastern region of Syria, including the area between two historic fortresses – Halabiye and Zalabiye – built on the banks of the Euphrates by Queen Zenobia. The daughter tries to find her mother, and when she has to give up, she resolves to write about her life and those of other female sorceresses. The Ruler of the Two Fortresses offers an insight into magic rites practiced to summon the dead and converse with them, taking us on a journey into unknown territory, where the women involved in such practices are usually condemned.
Ahmed El-Fakharany is an Egyptian novelist and journalist born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1981. His articles have been published in the Egyptian and Arabic press, and he has published six novels: Mandourla (2013), The Story of the Pasha (2016), The Family of Jado (2017), Souk of the Syrians (2019), Taming the Dog (2021) and Bar Lialina (2022), as well as a short story collection, The Kingdom of the Orange Juice (2011) and a book of poetry, Simple Decoration (2017), written in Egyptian dialect. His novel Souk of the Syrians won first prize in the Sawiris Cultural Award in the Young Writers category in 2020, and Mandourla won second place in 2016.
In this satirical novel, protagonist Nuh Al-Rahimi – an acting extra – resorts to trickery to gain admittance to Bar Lialina, frequented by the cultural elite. He hopes that through emulating them, he will discover what makes them so intelligent, while he by contrast is an ignoramus with inferior creative ability. He disguises himself as a rich film producer, but when his ruse is exposed, the bar’s regular clients decide that he must be thrown out. When he refuses to leave, they decide to have some fun by cruelly deceiving him, making Nuh into a laughingstock to deter him from ever daring to return to the bar. However, twenty years later, Nuh decides to go back and seek revenge, exposing these intellectuals for what they really are.
Mohammed Harradi is a Moroccan writer, born in Al Qunaitra, Morocco, in 1946. He has worked as a chief inspector for the National Ministry of Education, a lecturer in Education, and a researcher in the Centre for Educational Planning in Rabat. He has published five novels: The Bitter Almond (1980), Dreams of a Cow (1988), Rooster of the North (2001), Dante (2015), and Melody of the Rabbit (2022). He has also published a short story collection entitled The Cat’s Tail (1990) and a biography, Noubir Amaoui: On the Summit of a Mountain (1995).
The Melody of the Rabbit
Idris, the main protagonist of The Melody of the Rabbit, lives a monotonous existence working in a gloomy basement archive under the city, which represents state surveillance of its citizens. Passionate about Russian history, culture and its revolutionary heroes, he spends his time researching the Russian families who settled in Rabat after the Bolshevik Revolution. Living in a parallel fantasy world and indulging in constant daydreaming to escape his Kafkaesque existence, Idris begins to imagine that he is one of the Russian immigrants and styles himself as “His Majesty”. Underlying this charade, he relives painful childhood memories, in particular the killing of his father in the bloody political struggles following Moroccan independence. He remains in isolation, with no visitors to the basement, until a new colleague arrives: Suaad, who has studied English literature, and they begin an ambiguous romantic relationship.
Sausan Jamil Hasan is a Syrian novelist and doctor, born in Damascus, Syria, in 1957, currently living in Berlin. She studied Medicine at Tishreen University in Latakia, Syria, and trained in hospitals in Abu Dhabi in the early 1980s, before practicing medicine in Latakia. In 2013, she resigned from her job in order to dedicate herself to writing fiction. She has published six novels, including Silk of the Darkness (2008), A Thousand Nights in a Night (2010) and My Name is Zayzafoune (2022). In 2020, she was the only Arabic author to be awarded a writers’ residency for those writing in languages other than German by the German Ministry of Culture. For many years, she has been a regular contributor to numerous Arabic newspapers, websites and journals.
My Name Is Zayzafoune
The novel explores Arab moral double standards which make the individual, women in particular, wear a false face and live as spectators of their own lives rather than autonomous players in them. The two names of the heroine of the novel (Jahida/Zayzafoune) serve to highlight these double standards. After a watershed moment in her life when she faints, at the age of sixty Zayzafoune realises that life can be imagined in a way entirely different to how she has lived it all these years. This moment, in Latakia, Syria, on a summer’s day in 2019, marks one of two parallel time strands in the novel, which continues into the early months of 2020. The second timeline consists of memories of the past. The novel reflects deeply on the self: In what ways do people hate themselves? How can they hold on to life and love it, and what reason can they find to do that?
Aisha Ibrahim is a Libyan novelist, born in Beni Walid, Libya in 1969. She obtained a BA in Sciences, specialising in Mathematics, and a Higher Diploma in Statistics. She worked as a teacher and then as editor-in-chief of the websites of the Libyan Ministry of Culture and the High Commission for the elections. She began her literary career while studying at university in the 1990s. In 1991, she was awarded the State Prize for Students for Theatrical Writing for her play Emerald Village. She has published a collection of short stories entitled The World Ends in Tripoli (2019) and two novels, Qasil (2016) and The War of the Gazelle (2019), the latter longlisted for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Also in 2020, she received the Libyan Ministry of Culture’s Medal for Creativity.
The Box of Sand
It is 1911 and Sandro Compartini has just graduated from the Journalism Institute in Milan. He boards a steamer as a soldier in the 84th Corps, sent from Italy to war in Libya. While stationed in a trench in the desert, he falls in love with a milk seller from Tripoli, but she and her younger brother are arrested and sent to the Italian penal colonies after the bloody attack on al-Manshiyya Quarter in which their mother is killed. The novel then follows Sandro after his discharge from the army and return to Italy. Drawing on an archive of articles in the Italian and English press from this period, Ibrahim’s novel exposes a dark and unreported side of the war, when Libyan girls, pregnant women, mothers and children were rounded up and imprisoned without any charges or standing trial.
Nasser Iraq is an Egyptian novelist and writer, born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1961. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Zamalek, Cairo, in 1984, and currently works as editor-in-chief of the Arabic Letters magazine, published by the Cultural and Scientific Association in Dubai. He has published twelve novels, including The Unemployed (2011), IPAF-shortlisted in 2012, and Al-Uzbakeya (2015) which won the Katara Prize for the Arabic Novel in 2016 and was translated into English and French. His novel Women of Cairo/Dubai (2014) was shortlisted for the inaugural I See My Novel competition organised by the Abu Dhabi Media Company in 2018. In 2002, he co-founded the Dubai Al-Thaqafiya magazine, and was its editor-in-chief for eight years. He has also published several books on film and plastic arts.
The novel transports us to nineteenth-century Cairo and the Antikkhana, the first museum founded in Egypt in the time of the Khedive Ismail (1863-1879). The narrative unfolds through the eyes of four main characters. The first is Ramadan al-Mahmadi, an Egyptian carpenter who lures housemaids with promises of marriage into stealing artefacts from the house of the German archaeologist Heinrich Brugsch, and later also from the Antikkhana. If any of them tries to make him keep his promise, he kills her and buries her in his garden. Then there is Heinrich Brugsch, who helps ‘Mariette Pasha’ (Auguste Marriette), the director of the museum, in his work; and Ahmad Effendi Kamal, the first Egyptian archaeologist, who has only managed to get an administrative job at the Antikkhana since Mariette Pasha refused to employ Egyptians in jobs directly connected to the artefacts. He makes a monumental effort to find out who has stolen the antiquities, and falls in love with his French colleague, Josephine – the last of the four central characters – who has come to work at the Antikkhana after running away from an angry ex-fiancée in Paris.
Azhar Jerjis is an Iraqi writer and novelist, born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1973. From 2003 onwards, he worked as a journalist in Iraq and published a number of articles and stories in local and Arab newspapers and periodicals. In 2005, he wrote a satirical book about terrorist militias entitled Terrorism…Earthly Hell. As a result of this book, there was an assassination attempt against him and he was forced to flee the country. He went to Syria, then Casablanca and finally to Norway, where he now lives permanently. His published works include two short story collections, Above the Country of Blackness (2015) and The Sweetmaker (2017). His first novel, Sleeping in the Cherry Field (2019), was longlisted for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and is forthcoming in English translation by Banipal Books. The Stone of Happiness (2022) is his second novel. He works as a literary editor and translator between Arabic and Norwegian.
The Stone of Happiness
The events of The Stone of Happiness take place in Mosul and Baghdad between 1962 and 2018. After his younger brother drowns in the river Tigris in Mosul, young Kamal Touma runs away, terrified of his father’s brutal reaction, and hides in a fearsome place known as the “garden of the spirits”. Just before boarding a lorry heading south to the capital city, he picks up a small stone. Upon arrival in Baghdad, he searches for a place of refuge and finds himself in Khan al-Rahma, where he grows up in an atmosphere blighted by poverty and fear. Yet he finds comfort and strength to carry on pursuing his dreams from the strange stone. Kamal meets a photographer who helps him fulfil his personal and professional destiny, becoming an itinerant photographer himself, roaming through alleyways and markets and recording the life of the city and its people. As the years pass and the country goes through hard times, armed militias occupy the district where Kamal lives, and his life is turned upside down. Fear begins to ravage the inner peace he has always strived to preserve.
Rabia Raihane is a Moroccan novelist and short story writer, born in Morocco in 1951. She is the head of the Moroccan Forum for Culture and the Arts, and the founder of the Safi Festival of Female Creativity. For two years, she was head of the Moroccan Writers’ Union. She has published eight short story collections, one of which, Women’s Rain (1999), won the Female Creativity Prize in the UAE. In addition to The Family House (2022), she has published two earlier novels, Ways of Loving (2013) and Aunt Um Hani (2020). Her work has been translated into Danish, English, French, German and Spanish.
The Family House
The novel is set in Morocco in the first half of the twentieth century. Farida relates memories of her childhood and growing up in ‘the family house’ built by her grandfather Kabour, a strong, brave and chivalrous man who fled his village after a physical altercation with a local official who had attacked a farmer. In his new abode on the banks of the Tensift River, near the city of Safi, Kabour establishes himself as a patriarch. He marries four women to give him innumerable children to work for him. He becomes a successful businessman and a local legend. Farida meanwhile is forced to leave her mother as a young child after her parents’ divorce and move to the family house, where she shares in the life of the different generations living there. Reaching the age of forty, she decides to enrol at film school and write a screenplay about the life of her extraordinary and complex grandfather.
Miral al-Tahawy is an Egyptian writer, novelist and academic, born in Ash Sharqia Governorate, Egypt, in 1968. She currently works as professor of Arabic literature at the College of World Languages and Translation, the University of Arizona. Her most well-known works include: The Tent (1995), The Blue Aubergine (1998), winner of the 2002 State Incentive Prize for the Novel in Egypt, The Strumming of the Gazelles (2002), and Brooklyn Heights (2010), shortlisted for the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, awarded by the American University in Cairo. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. She has also published a volume of short stories and academic studies, and has taught at universities in Virginia, North Carolina and the College of Sciences in Al-Fayoum University.
Days of the Shining Sun
The events of Days of the Shining Sun are sandwiched between the suicide of Jamal, a young man torn between different identities, in the opening pages, and the suicide of Mimi, an African girl who has survived a massacre in her country, at the end of the novel. They take place in an imagined small town called Shining Sun on the southwestern border of America, where the illegal smuggling of workers and immigrants is a daily occurrence. The novel sheds light on a group marginalized in Western society who are – incorrectly – regarded as the survivors, and gives them a voice, delving deep into their concerns. Whilst it is a classic example of a narrative conveying the disorientation of exile, above all else it platforms the foreigner’s perspective; simultaneously rebelling against this new reality and finding a way to adapt to its harshness.
Qassem Tawfik is a Jordanian writer of Palestinian origins, born in Jenin, Palestine, in 1954. After graduating with a BA in Arabic Language and Literature from the University of Jordan in 1978, he worked in the banking sector in Jordan, the UAE, and several other Arab and European countries. In his final post before retirement, he worked as an auditor in a Jordanian bank. He has published five short story collections and fifteen novels, including: A More Beautiful Land (1987); Al Shindagha (2006); A Story Called Love (2009); Smell of the Bitter Almond (2014); Haemorrhage of the Small Bird (2017), which won the Katara Prize for the Arabic Novel in 2018; An Inn Above the Ground (2020); Abdoun Bridge (2021); and One Night Is Enough (2022).
One Night is Enough
The events of the novel take place in a café in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on the night of the start of the “Naksa” (Six-Day War), in June 1967. Wijdan, a nurse who works at Amman Hospital, takes refuge in the café at the moment the war breaks out and the sky is filled with smoke. She is forced to remain there to avoid the danger of her journey home, and strikes up a conversation with café employee Dheeb. Although its main events take place within a narrow timeframe and setting in the present day, the novel traces the past lives of the two protagonists across various locations. Dheeb is a young man who was forced into exile before returning to Amman; Wijdan’s family were exiled from Palestine in the 1948 Nakba, and she suffered the painful and tragic loss of her fiancée. The novel delves into the psychology of the two characters, revealing how their connection develops over the course of one night as chaos erupts around them.
May Telmissany is an Egyptian writer and novelist, born in Cairo, Egypt in 1965. She teaches Arabic Studies and Cinema at Ottawa University, Canada, and is the author of three short story collections and four novels: Dunyazade (1997), Heliopolis (2000), A Capella (2012) and They All Say I Love You (2021). Dunyazade was translated into eight languages and has won prizes in Egypt and France. Her book of memoirs entitled Paradise Has a Fence (2009), about the experience of exile and travel between Egypt and Canada, was published in French in Montreal. She has published academic research on cinema, arts, popular culture and postcolonial studies in numerous periodicals worldwide. In 2021, she was awarded the French Order for Arts and Letters with the rank of knight, in recognition of her contributions in the fields of culture, arts and literature.
They All Say I Love You
With a quiet humour, They All Say I Love You gets under the skin of five middle-aged, middle class Arab intellectuals living in Canada and America, following the twists and turns of their love lives as they question their choices in life and reflect on (un)faithfulness in romantic relationships. They meet on various forms of transport – a train, a plane and on the motorway – and their stories intersect and mirror each other. The reader experiences each character both as a first-person narrator and a third person figure in another character’s story, creating a complex reality with multiple perspectives. As exiles, the protagonists all grapple with issues of language, identity and assimilation, and remain connected to the lands of their birth through annual visits, painful memories of past trauma or political engagement.
IPAF Judging Panel 2022 — biographies
Mohammed Achaari (Chair) is a Moroccan writer and novelist, born in Zerhoun, Morocco. He studied Law at Mohammed V University and began publishing his first poems and stories in Moroccan newspapers in the late 1960s, before becoming a columnist and editor-in-chief of the cultural supplement of the Socialist Union newspaper. For three consecutive years, he was head of the Moroccan Writers’ Union. His political work led him to be imprisoned, but he was later appointed Minister of Culture and then Minister of Culture and Communication between 1998 and 2007, in the first two-chamber government in the history of Morocco. He has published 12 poetry collections and six novels, including The Arch and the Butterfly, winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2011, The Box of Names (2014), Three Nights (2017), The Old Spring (2019), and From Wood and Clay (2021). He won the International Arkanah Award (2022) in recognition of his poetry. His work has been translated into a number of languages.
Reem Bassiouney is a lecturer and Head of the Department of Linguistics at the American University of Cairo. She is editor of the Routledge Studies in Language and Identity, and editor and creator of the Journal of Arabic Sociolinguistics. After graduating from Alexandria University, she obtained an MA and PhD from Oxford University. She has taught in British and American universities and published several novels. In 2009, she received the Translation of Arabic Literature Award, given for the best translated work of fiction by the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, Arkansas University, for her novel The Pistachio Seller (2009). This was followed in 2010 by the Sawiris Cultural Award granted by the Egyptian Higher Council for Culture for her novel Dr. Hanaa (2007); the 2020 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for The Mamluk Trilogy (2018), which was also nominated for the Dublin Literary Award and is currently being adapted into a TV drama; and the State Prize for Excellence in Literature (2022) for the body of her literary work. Her novels have been translated into English, Greek and Spanish. Several of her academic books have been published in Europe and America.
Tetz Rooke is a Swedish university professor, researcher and translator, born in 1955. In 1997, he obtained a PhD in Arabic Language and Literature from Stockholm University, Sweden, and he is now a professor at Gothenburg University. He has translated over twenty literary works from Arabic into Swedish, including novels, short stories, poetry and plays, as well as publishing numerous academic studies on modern Arabic literature and translation in particular. One of his books, entitled In My Childhood (1997), is a study of Arabic autobiography of childhood, as exemplified by Arab writers, and was translated into Arabic in 2002.
Aziza al-Ta’i is a writer and academic from Oman. She obtained a BA in Arabic Literature and a Diploma in Education from the Jordanian University, an MA from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, and a PhD in Modern Literary Criticism from the University of Tunis. She has worked as an Arabic language teaching supervisor and an educational expert in the Omani Ministry of Education and Teaching. Al-Ta’i lectures at Sultan Qaboos University and has published novels, short stories, poetry and children’s literature. She has contributed to research and academic publications and is a member of the editing board of the Eyes of Narrative magazine published by the University of Tetouan, Morocco. Her poetry collection Take My Hand, Since Autumn Has Gone won the second iteration of the Prize for Gulf Women Writers, in 2019. Extracts from her poetry, stories and novels have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian and Bosnian.
Fadhila El Farouk is an Algerian novelist and researcher. She has more than thirty years’ experience in the field of cultural journalism (newspapers, radio, and television) and has published six books, including novels, short stories and poetry. Her work has been translated into English, French, and Spanish, amongst other languages. She launched a television programme to equip viewers of all educational levels with reading skills and presented over 600 books to viewers on Al Araby television, in many cases accurately predicting award-winning titles. She has maintained her interest in encouraging reading from the early 1990s onwards. El Farouk has been a vocal advocate – both in the media and her books – of improving the conditions of women and reform of laws which affect them negatively.