Arab fiction nominees tackle women and conflict

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Women escaping their pasts and the Arab-Israeli conflict are among the themes tackled by six books shortlisted on Tuesday for the annual International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The award, worth $10,000 to each of the nominees and another $50,000 to the winner, honors works of prose fiction in Arabic, and the exposure it brings can mean publishing deals in English and other languages.

In “The Lady from Tel Aviv,” Palestinian author Raba’i Madhoun looks at the Middle East conflict through the prism of a Palestinian exile returning home to Gaza after many years abroad and an Israeli sitting next to him on a flight to Tel Aviv.

The novel, “in its complexity, intricacy and ambiguity, avoids the dogma of ready-made ideology,” the judges said in a statement.

Madhoun is up against two Egyptian writers, Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel for “A Cloudy Day on the West Side” and Mansoura Ez Eldin for “Beyond Paradise.”

A Cloudy Day is set in Egypt at the time of the great archaeological discoveries of the 1920s and tells the story of a young girl taken from her home when her mother is forced to flee her abusive husband.

Beyond Paradise centres around Salma, who writes her family history as a way of liberating herself from a painful past.

“America,” by Lebanon’s Rabee Jabir, is about Syrians who left their homelands to seek a new life in the United States, and “She Throws Sparks,” by Saudi Arabian Abdo Khal is a satire on the seductive power of life in the palace.

“When the Wolves Grow Old,” written by Jordanian Jamal Naji, rounds out the list of nominees and follows people who leave Amman’s poor quarters to find positions of wealth and power.

The winner will be announced in Abu Dhabi on March 2, 2010.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison