The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) has announced the winners for its 17th edition, which recorded the highest number of submissions across all nine categories since the award’s launch.
Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the 2023 edition received 3,151 submissions from 60 countries, including 22 Arab nations and 38 countries from around the world.
In the Literature category, the award went to Iraqi poet Ali Jaafar Alallaq for his book Ila Ayn Ayyathouha Al Kaseedah (Whereto, O Poem? An Autobiography), issued by Alaan Publishing, Jordan in 2022. The book is a significant addition to the genre, particularly due to its focus on Alallaq’s poetic experience. Through the book, readers can gain insight into the relationship between the poet and his work, as well as the challenges of the Iraqi and Arab cultural landscape for more than 50 years. The author presents a modernist perspective that is broad-minded. The language of the book is stylistically diverse, ranging from everyday language to poetic prose. The author skilfully employs biographical techniques, incorporating Alallaq’s own poems and those of other poets to create a distinct and exceptional work.
The Arab Culture in Other Languages category saw French author Mathieu Tillier win for his book L’invention du cadi: La justice des musulmans, des juifs et des chrétiens aux premiers siècles de l’Islam (The Invention of the Cadi: Justice among Muslims, Jews, and Christians during the First Centuries of Islam), issued by Editions de la Sorbonne in 2017. This book marks a key step toward a more comprehensive and precise exploration of the evolution of the judicial system during the early Islamic period. Utilising fresh sources and an innovative comparative approach, the book examines the development of judicial procedures, shedding light on various critical questions, such as the processes involved in filing complaints and cases, their legal progression, and the individuals responsible for delivering final judgments. The book includes a comprehensive collection of narratives detailing the history of Egypt and Palestine during the Umayyad era, which offer invaluable contemporary insights into historical events. The book is a testament to the author’s dedication to academic accuracy, featuring an abundance of Arabic, Greek, Syriac, and Coptic sources.
Meanwhile, in the Young Author category, the winner was Algerian author Said Khatibi for his novel Nehayat Al Sahra’a (The End of the Desert), issued by Hachette Antoine/Nofal, Lebanon in 2022. The novel exhibits imaginative characteristics, stylistic originality, and narrative proficiency in the genre of detective literature. It skilfully arranges events and utilises storytelling techniques, making it a noteworthy addition to the scarce historical detective novels in modern Arabic literature that cater to younger readers and encompass various societal settings. The text is distinguished by its eloquence and seamless flow, keeping the reader engaged without pause or tedium.
Tunisian author Chokri Al Saadi won in the Translation category for his translated book Al-Ibara wa-al-Mi’na: Dirasat fi Nathariyat al-A’amal al-Lughawiya (Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts) by John R. Searle, issued by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs - Tunisian Institute for Translation in 2021 and translated from English to Arabic. The translation of the book stands out for its significant scientific merit and its ability to effectively convey specialised terminology in the areas of linguistics and philosophy. Additionally, the translator has included an exceptional introduction that adds to the value of the translation. As a result, this book is an important addition to the field of linguistics, enriching the Arabic library. Moreover, it presents an opportunity for Arabic language specialists to familiarise themselves with the latest advancements in linguistics.
In the Art and Literary Criticism category, Dr. Jalila Al Tritar from Tunisia won for her book Mara’i an-Nisaa’: Dirasat fi Kitabat al-That an-Nisaa’iya al-Aarabiya (Women Views: Studies on Arab Women Self Writings), issued by La Maison Tunisienne Du Livre in 2021. This research is regarded as a significant contribution to the study of women’s biographies. Its scientific approach and capacity to comprehend the biographies of Arab female innovators demonstrate an understanding of their identity within the Arab society’s context. Furthermore, it expands the scope of research in exploring women’s creative expression, highlighting their contributions to shaping ideas and advancing civilisation.
Meanwhile, in the Publishing and Technology category, the winner was Egyptian publishing house Dar ElAin Publishing. Dar Al Ain Publishing House is a cultural institution that seeks to engage with reality and develop book writing in both content and form. The team at Dar ElAin is eager to learn from other publishing experiences and to discuss them within the Arab and international community. The House’s goal is not simply to issue books, but to focus on quality. Books are an integral part of the institution’s strategy; the House is not solely motivated by financial gain, but rather seeks to prepare Arab readers to participate in a knowledge-based society. Dar ElAin Publishing House’s publications span various fields, including scientific culture – the area it began its journey within the publishing world. The house has made significant strides in the field of literature and literary studies by supporting the publication of high-value literary works and studies, not limiting itself to established authors, but also providing opportunities for creative youth.
His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi and member of the SZBA Board of Trustees, said: “The Sheikh Zayed Book Award has become a symbol of the revival of culture and literary works, and a gateway enabling cultural and civilisational exchange in the world. Since its inception, the Award has led unremitting efforts to bring about a cultural and literary renaissance that keeps pace with our openness to various cultures around the world.”
“The 17th edition of the Award is the culmination of a successful journey that has been able, over many years, to showcase the most prominent literary, cultural, and intellectual works from the Arab region and the world through its various categories, creating an opportunity for everyone to participate and highlight their talents to the world.
“The SZBA will remain committed to its mission to encourage thinkers and talented individuals who can lead a true shift and spearhead the cultural movement that the Arab nation deserves, given its history and enormous cultural heritage.”
His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the SZBA and Chairman of the ALC, said: “The Sheikh Zayed Book Award reflects our wise leadership’s commitment to promoting the significance of books as a central point for the convergence of global cultures, encouraging the exchange of ideas and cultures, and producing new literary and cultural works that enrich intellectual life in the UAE, the region, and the world. Every year, the winning works represent the top intellectual creations of a distinguished group of writers, authors, and thinkers from around the world. We congratulate them on their well-deserved win, and encourage everyone to excel and work hard, starting today, to take part in the next round of the award.”
“The SZBA’s success over the past few years is the result of tireless efforts from our teams at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, and the support of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.
“I thank the Members of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Board of Trustees, along with its Scientific Committee, and its judges for their work in this current edition, which helped shed light on a new and distinguished collection of intellectual and literary works, which we count on to be the nucleus of a renewed cultural movement that enriches the cultural scene in the region and the world.”
The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award will be announced in the upcoming few weeks. The SZBA will honour the winners of its 17th edition in an award ceremony at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre )ADNEC( coinciding with the 32nd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on 23 May 2023. The ceremony will be broadcast live through the SZBA social media platforms @zayedbookaward on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
The Cultural Personality of the Year winner will be presented with a gold medal and a certificate of merit, as well as an AED1 million prize, while winners of other categories will each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit, and a prize of AED750,000.