03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

UNVEILING: Best 39 Arab Writers Under 40

PRESS RELEASE: As part of Beirut 'World Capital of the Book' festivities, Hay Festival announces the complete list of the 'Beirut39' Project at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair. 'Beirut39' will celebrate the best 39 Arab writers under 40 in Beirut in a festival on 15-18 April 2010. An anthology featuring the authors will be published simultaneously in English and Arabic by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.

The 39 writers that have been selected to be part of the Beirut39 project are:

Abdullah Thabit (Saudi Arabia, 1973), Abdelaziz Errachidi (Morocco, 1978), Abdelkader Benali (Morocco/The Netherlands, 1975), Abderrahim Elkhassar (Morocco, 1975), Abderrazak Boukebba (Algeria, 1977), Abdellah Taia (Morocco, 1973), Adania Shibli (Palestine, 1974), Ahmad Saadawi (Iraq, 1973), Ahmad Yamani (Egypt, 1970), Ala Hlehel (Palestine, 1974), Yahya Amqassim (Saudi Arabia, 1971), Bassim al Ansar (Iraq, 1970), Dima Wannous (Syria, 1982), Faiza Guene (Algeria/France, 1985), Hala Kawtharani (Lebanon, 1977), Hamdy el Gazzar (Egypt, 1970), Hussein al Abri (Oman, 1972), Hussein Jelaad (Jordan, 1970), Hyam Yared (Lebanon, 1975), Islam Samhan (Jordan, 1982), Joumana Haddad (Lebanon, 1970), Kamel Riahi (Tunisia, 1974), Mansour El Souwaim (Sudan, 1970), Mansoura Ez Eldin (Egypt, 1976), Mohammad Hassan Alwan (Saudi Arabia, 1979), Mohammad Salah Al Azab (Egypt, 1981), Nagat Ali (Egypt, 1975), Najwa Binshatwan (Lybia, 1970), Najwan Darwish (Palestine, 1978), Nazem El Sayed (Lebanon, 1975), Rabee Jaber (Lebanon, 1972), Randa Jarrar (Palestine/Egypt/USA, 1978), Rosa Yassin Hassan (Syria, 1974), Samar Yezbek (Syria, 1970), Samer Abou Hawwash (Palestine, 1972), Wajdi al Ahdal (Yemen, 1973), Yassin Adnan (Morocco, 1970), Youssef Rakha (Egypt, 1976) and Zaki Baydoun (Lebanon, 1981).

Beirut39 is a Hay Festival project which aims to select and celebrate 39 of the most interesting Arab writers under the age of 40 as a part of the Beirut World Capital festivities 2009/10. Beirut39 follows on from the extremely successful Bogotá39, which the Hay Festival launched in Bogotá in 2007 and which identified many of the outstanding upcoming Latin American talents, including Daniel Alarcón, Junot Díaz, Wendy Guerra, Andrés Newman or Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

An independent panel of judges have assessed nearly 500 submissions, most of which are in Arabic, but a number of which are in other languages, including Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, English, Italian or French. The judges are: Abdo Wazen, Lebanese poet and cultural editor of the international daily Al-Hayat newspaper; Alawiya Sobh, Lebanese writer; Saif Al Rahbi, Omani poet and editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine Nazwa; and Dr. Gaber Asfour, Egyptian literary critic and Honorary President of the judging panel.

Coinciding with the Beirut39 festival running in Beirut from 15 to 18 April 2010, Bloomsbury will publish Beirut39, an anthology of fiction and poetry by the 39 selected authors with an introduction by the Lebanese author Amin Maalouf. The book will be published in English worldwide by Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury USA and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, and in Arabic throughout the world by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. Bloomsbury is also selling the translation rights.

Although important new literary awards have increased the profile of Arabic literature in the Arab world and worldwide, the writers that have benefited generally have a long writing career behind them. The Beirut 39 competition set out to identify and honour writers who are at the start of their careers and who are often struggling to find a wider audience. The 39 writers that have been selected by the judges have justified the decision to focus on new talent. The judges, along with the Hay Festival, Bloomsbury Publishing and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, are all excited to be able to provide a platform for so many exciting new voices.

Announcement from the Judges' Panel of the Beirut 39 Competition

After several meetings in Arab capitals and most recently in Beirut, the panel of judges for
the Beirut 39 competition has agreed upon a shortlist of 39 authors. These writers will
participate in the festival "Beirut 39", which is being produced by the Hay Festival, and
which will be one of the events in the festivities celebrating Beirut as World Capital of the

The abundance of young entrants in the competition is especially noteworthy: more than 450
young authors from across the Arab world, and from the Arab Diaspora in Europe and
America, submitted their works.

The members of the committee, headed by Egyptian literary critic Gaber Asfour, and which
includes the Lebanese novelist Alawiya Sobh, the Omani poet Saif Al Rahbi and the
Lebanese poet and critic Abdo Wazen, pored over the multitude of work sent in by authors
and publishers, in order to make their selection. The committee worked by elimination: it
first picked 100 names; then brought the list down to 60; then, after long discussions and
much debate, to the 39 finalists. On more than one occasion, the debates stretched for hours
at a time, since there were so many wonderful books that deserved to win. Getting the final
selection was a difficult, demanding, and meticulous process.

The 39 names that have been shortlisted were chosen based on their superior qualities,
whether as novelists, short story tellers or poems. They represent an ideal mixture of
tradition and modernity, and display high literary and critical standards. These are the voices
of young talents, who have managed to form their personalities and impose their experiences
and views, in addition to sharing an exemplary use of language, technique and vision.

The final choice of the 39 shortlisted names does not detract from the worthiness of many
other important contributors. Many entrants were eligible to be shortlisted in the
competition, but the Hay Festival's commitment to the 39-name rule proved to be unlucky
for some.

In conclusion, we would like to pay tribute to young Arab writing, which is emerging as an
idiosyncratic and unique literary genre. Perhaps this generation of young writers will forge
the future for Arabic literature!

Thanks are also due to Banipal, and its editors Margaret Obank and Samuel Shimon, who
helped to gather names, arrange for books, and assist the committee in other ways.

More information can be found at: