Omani author Zahran Al Qasmi shortlisted for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Oman Saturday 13/May/2023 15:15 PM
By: Times News Service
Omani author Zahran Al Qasmi shortlisted for International Prize for Arabic Fiction
Zahran Alqasmi, the author of The Exile of the Water Diviner.

Abu Dhabi: Omani poet and novelist Zahran Al Qasmi  has been shortlisted for International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2023. His novel 'The Exile of the Water Diviner' has been shortlisted for the award which will be announced on Sunday May 21, 2023.

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).

Each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, with the winner being announced on Sunday 21 May 2023 in Abu Dhabi receiving an additional $50,000.

'The Highest Part of the Horizon' by Fatima Abdulhamid, 'Drought' by AlSadiq Haj Ahmed, 'The Exile of the Water Diviner' by Zahran Alqasmi, 'Concerto Qurina Eduardo' by Najwa Binshatwan, 'The Stone of Happiness' by Azher Jirjees and 'Days of the Shining Sun' by Miral Al Tahawy have been announced as the shortlisted works for the 16th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

'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. 

 The shortlist was revealed in a virtual press conference by this year’s Chair of Judges, Moroccan writer and novelist Mohammed Achaari. He appeared alongside fellow judges – Egyptian academic and novelist Reem Bassiouney, Algerian novelist, researcher and journalist Fadhila El Farouk, Swedish university professor and translator Tetz Rooke, and Omani writer and academic Aziza alTa’I – as well as Yassin Adnan, an IPAF Trustee, and Prize Administrator Fleur Montanaro.

The shortlisted authors for IPAF’s 16th edition are from six countries, with an equal ratio of men and women. Collectively, and with differing narrative styles, the writers address a variety of vital and timely themes.

Two of the authors on the 2023 list have been shortlisted before: Najwa Binshatwan (in 2017 for The Slave Yards) and Miral al-Tahawy (in 2011 for Brooklyn Heights). Azher Jirjees was previously longlisted in 2020 for Sleeping in the Cherry Field. Fatima Abdulhamid, Al-Sadiq Haj Ahmed, and Zahran Alqasmi are recognised by the Prize for the first time.

Mohammed Achaari, Chair of the 2023 Judges, commented: "The scope of the 2023 shortlisted novels is vibrant and varied. The Stone of Happiness shines a light on how children and the weak bear the burden of society disintegrating after war and sectarian struggles. The Exile of the Water Diviner focuses on water and its symbolism in the collective memory. Days of the Shining Sun explores migration and upheaval, through people trapped between the hardships of their places of origin and the violence of their places of exile. Concerto Qurina Eduardo is an intimate portrait of human struggle in the face of injustice and political despotism, where the hell of the present seems only to signal a hellish future. The Highest Part of the Heavens charts the terrors of death, and of love, and their constant intersections. Finally, Drought transports us to the world of the Sahara between southern Algeria and northern Mali, where drought, famine and tribalism mirror the brutal and fragile nature of the desert. The judges feel that through this multiplicity of voices and idiom, with contrasting styles, structure and narrative forms, the broad sweep which these stories comprise offers a dynamic snapshot of the contemporary Arabic novel."

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: "The shortlisted novels excavate the themes of marginality, alienation and dispersal in Arab life from different vantage points, interweaving them with nostalgia for the past in some cases, and the brutality of a failed political and social order in others. Exhibiting the ethnic richness and cultural diversity of Arab social life, the novels unfold in equally varied settings that amplify this range. The emergence of new voices and a strong gender mix are striking features of this list."

The winner of the 16th International Prize for Arabic Fiction will be announced on Sunday 21 May 2023 at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi that will also be streamed online.

For further information about the prize, please visit:


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