Sheikh Zayed Book Award broad­ens its reach across the world of lit­er­a­ture

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Saeed Saeed

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is go­ing global. That was the mes­sage sent to the in­ter­na­tional pub­lish­ing in­dus­try when the award’s or­gan­is­ers took part in the Frank­furt Book Fair.

They ar­rived at the mam­moth event with a pro­gramme that in­cluded panel ses­sions and book launches, as well as a net­work­ing din­ner fea­tur­ing sev­eral pub­lish­ers. The Frank­furt mis­sion came on top of the award team’s other in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances this year, which in­cluded ses­sions at the Lon­don In­ter­na­tional Book Fair and its French coun­ter­part, Livre Paris, in March.

Or­gan­is­ers aimed to use their ap­pear­ance at each event to high­light the evo­lu­tion of the award. Launched in 2007 and or­gan­ised by the Depart­ment of Cul­ture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, the an­nual award hon­ours the achieve­ments of Arab writ­ers, in­ter­na­tional and re­gional in­tel­lec­tu­als, trans­la­tors and pub­lish­ers whose work is viewed as hav­ing “en­riched Arab, cul­tural, lit­er­ary and so­cial life”. With a Dh7 mil­lion prize purse, it is also one of the rich­est lit­er­ary awards in the world.

The longlist for next year’s awards will be an­nounced next month, with the short­list to be re­vealed in March next year. The win­ners will be an­nounced a month later, with an awards cer­e­mony nor­mally held dur­ing the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.

Speak­ing to The Na­tional from Frank­furt, the award’s sec­re­tary gen­eral Dr Ali bin Tamim, who is also chair­man of the Abu Dhabi Ara­bic Lan­guage Author­ity, says the award’s grow­ing pres­tige means the time has come to give it a greater in­ter­na­tional plat­form.

He says part of the rea­son the award’s or­gan­is­ers trav­elled to Frank­furt was to high­light one of the award’s cat­e­gories, Ara­bic Cul­ture in Other Lan­guages, which recog­nises works writ­ten by Ara­bists in var­i­ous lan­guages, in­clud­ing English, Rus­sian, Ger­man, French or Span­ish.

This year’s win­ner was Philip Kennedy, Pro­fes­sor of Mid­dle

Eastern and Is­lamic Stud­ies and Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture at NYU Abu Dhabi. He was recog­nised for his book Recog­ni­tion in the Ara­bic Nar­ra­tive Tra­di­tion. Pub­lished in 2016, the book ex­plores the con­cept of the “recog­ni­tion scene” – the point in a nar­ra­tive when hid­den facts and iden­ti­ties come to light – in five Ara­bic texts, in­clud­ing the Qu­ran.

Ali says Kennedy’s book, as well as the work of past win­ners such as a work by Ger­man Pro­fes­sor Dag Niko­laus Hasse and Ja­pan’s Sugita Hideaki, shows the breadth of lit­er­a­ture the award recog­nises.

“This cat­e­gory is of huge im­por­tance, not only for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award it­self but to the greater Arab world,” says Ali. “That is be­cause it is re­ally a great con­tri­bu­tion to the cul­ture.

“Many peo­ple don’t know that there has been some great and im­por­tant re­search done into Ara­bic cul­ture and some of that could be even more im­por­tant than the re­search writ­ten in Ara­bic, so we want to shed light on that. So there is a plan to let this award be well known in­ter­na­tion­ally and this is all to achieve its global ob­jec­tives.”

The award’s next for­eign mis­sion will be in Rus­sia, with Ali say­ing a high-level cul­ture sum­mit to be held in Moscow is in the works. That event is set to fea­ture lead­ing cul­tural fig­ures and Ara­bists from across Rus­sia.

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