Torture and tragedy top Arabic Fiction award list

Thu Dec 9, 2010 9:48am EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Six authors nominated for the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction on Thursday tackle issues ranging from corruption to immigration and religious extremism in a politically charged shortlist.

Moroccan poet Mohammed Achaari is nominated for "The Arch and the Butterfly," in which a father receives a letter from al Qaeda informing him that his son, who he believed was studying in Paris, had died fighting Western forces in Afghanistan.

Saudi novelist Raja Alem, shortlisted for "The Dove's Necklace," explores the "sordid underbelly" of life in the holy city of Mecca, said the organizers of the annual award, funded by the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy.

It is also supported by the Booker Prize Foundation, the charity behind the Man Booker Prize for English language fiction, and by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Two Egyptian authors write about Arabs who go to live abroad -- Khalid al-Bari's "An Oriental Dance" follows a young Egyptian man who marries an older British woman and moves with her to England, while U.S.-based Miral al-Tahawy's "Brooklyn Heights" describes the experiences of Arab immigrants in New York.

Morocco's Bensalem Himmich imagines an innocent man's experience of extraordinary rendition in "My Tormentor," and Sudan's Amir Taj al-Sir's "The Hunter of the Chrysalises" tells of a former intelligence agent who comes under police scrutiny.

The shortlisted writers each receive $10,000 and the winner, announced in Abu Dhabi on March 14, 2011, wins another $50,000 and a likely boost in sales in Arab countries and internationally.

The winning book is also translated into English.

The previous three winners of the award are "Sunset Oasis" by Bahaa Taher (Egypt), "Azazel" by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt) and "Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles" by Abdo Khal (Saudi Arabia).

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)