Lebanese Author Wins The 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Lebanese author Hoda Barakat has scooped the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) for her novel The Night Mail, becoming the second woman to receive the award.

In a glittering ceremony held at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, the judges announced Hoda Barakat’s novel the winner of this year.

Mrs. Barakat received as well $50,000 and a guaranteed English translation and publication of her winning work to be released by 2020. 

In her speech following the announcement, Mrs. Barakat revealed that she did not want to enter the contest this year for having been only longlisted in 2013 for her novel The Kingdom of This Earth.

However, she ended yielding to the insistence of the Chairman of Booker Prize Foundation, Jonathan Taylor, to submit her new novel to the contest. She went on adding, “The Arabic language is more important to me than any prize.”

In her moment of glory, Mrs. Barakat did not forget her fellow regional authors from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Syria whose novels were shortlisted with hers for the prize.

She praised them in recognition of their values, and stated, “This is proof that Arabic fiction is growing in position and stature to an equal level with other novels.”

“We’re raising the level of our language and we must have faith in our Arabic language,” she said. “It’s not a handicap for a writer. I think we can be an example to follow.”

The winning novel The Night Mail was published by Dar al-Adab. It is a humanitarian novel that was written in response to the migrant crisis that is sweeping the world at present, as reported by Barakat to IPAF.

The Night Mail tells the story of random characters through letters written to their relatives in Lebanon. These characters vary between exiles, migrants, and homeless. They share the narratives of their lives in letters and eventually their fates intertwine.

Hoda Barakat is a Lebanese novelist who was born in Beirut in 1952.  She currently lives in France where she works in teaching and journalism. So far, she has published six novels, two plays, a book of short stories, and a book of memoirs. 

Throughout her life, our Lebanese novelist has received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2002 and the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite National in 2008. One of her novels, Tiller of Waters (2000), won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2000.

In 2013, her novel The Kingdom of This Earth (2012) was longlisted for the IPAF, and in 2015, she was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize.

It is deserving to mention that The International Prize (IPAF) is a prestigious annual literary prize that rewards the contemporary Arabic creative writing.

This price is managed in association with the Booker Prize Foundation in London and is supported by the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi.