Sheikh Zayed Book Award Announces 2021 Winners
The World’s Leading Arab Literature and Culture Prizes
- Three women win including Iman Mersal for the Literature Prize, with additional awards to a study of Saudi Women writers, Arab oration, and a history of supremacy
- Each winner receives a career-changing prize of $204,181
- Winners hail from five countries: Egypt (2), Lebanon (1), Saudi Arabia (2), Tunisia (2), and the US (1)
- Literature and Children’s Book categories receive translation funding
- The awards will be presented in a ceremony streamed live during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (May 23-29, 2021)
- Record-breaking year for submissions with over 2,349 entries from 57 countries
- Cultural Personality of the Year to be announced at a later date
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, the Sheikh Zayed Book has revealed the winners of its 15th edition across eight key categories.
Three women took prizes this year with internationally renowned Egyptian author Iman Mersal, winning the Literature Prize, Dr. Asma bint Muqbil bin Awad Al-Ahmadi taking the Young Author Prize for her critical study of Saudi Women writers, and University of Chicago professorTahera Qutbuddin winning the Prize for Culture in Other Languages for her book Arabic Oration: Art and Function.
Michael Cooperson, a UCLA professor of Arabic, won the Translation Prize for his innovative translation of Maqamat Al-Hariri’s Impostures, a story of the popular Arab folk character Abu Zayd. The Children’s Literature category was won by the Tunisian author Mizouni Bannani for his novel An Artist Journey (Rehlat Fannan); The Literary and Art Criticism Prize was won by Khelil Gouia for his history of Tunisian art, The Path of Modernisation in the Visual Arts: From Drawing to Painting (Massar al Tahdeeth fil Funoon al Tashkeeliyya men al Ursooma ela al Lawhah). The Development of Nations Prize went to the Egyptian scholar Saeed El-Masri for his thought-provoking Legacy of Supremacy between Folklore and Religion (Turah al Este’la Bayn al Fokelore wal Majal al Dini). The Publishing and Technology Prize was presented to Dar Al Jadeed Publishing of Lebanon. The Cultural Personality of the Year Award to be announced at a later date.
The winning titles in the children’s books and literature categories will be entitled for translation funding through the Award’s Translation Grant. Nine books have been translated into multiple languages since the launch of this grant. The Award has seen a growing interest in translation requests, reiterating the importance of building bridges between nations, cultures, literature, and heritage.
The Awards will be formally presented on May 24th and streamed live on YouTube from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (23-29 May 2021).
The winners will each receive a prize of $204,181 US (the equivalent of 750,000 United Arab Emirates dirhams) both in recognition of their achievements and to support their ongoing work. SZBA prize alumna Dame Marina Warner (Arab Culture in Other Languages, 2013) has described the Award as one that nourishes the academic community, “less of a trophy than a lavish bursary that allows the recipient to continue their adventures in understanding”.
2020 saw a record-breaking year for submissions, with 2,349 entries from 57 countries, particularly strongin the Young Author, Literature, and Children’s Literature categories. The Judging Committee noted that, despite a challenging year due to the global pandemic, they were delighted by the increase in submissions, reflecting not only the importance of literary awards but the resilience and vitality of the publishing industry.
One of the Arab world’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award aims to showcase the most powerful, stimulating, and challenging works representing the Arab world, and to encourage greater scholarship and creativity by recognizing and rewarding these significant cultural achievements in Arabic culture. In the words of last year’s Children’s Literature winner Ibtisam Barakat, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is “the Arab world’s equivalent to the Nobel prize”.
H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said, “Since its first edition in 2006, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has proved to be a beacon of culture and literature, recognised and respected internationally as a champion of creativity. Through this inspirational Award, we honour the memory of our nation’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose far-reaching vision for the UAE was intrinsically linked to the cornerstones of culture, knowledge and human development.”
Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, commented, “As one of the Arab world’s leading cultural awards we are proud to support a flourishing international publishing landscape and pleased to see winners are from five countries across the globe. The judges were especially impressed with the range of genres, the breadth of topics and the ambition of the scholars and writers represented here. This year’s winners highlight the depth and prestige of the Award in the Arab world and beyond. We commend their achievement and look forward to seeing more superb work in the years to come.”
French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf, winner of the 2016 Cultural Personality of the year, commented, ‘In such difficult times, it is more important than ever to focus on books and on cultural values. They alone can provide us with the moral compass we so desperately need to move on with our eyes wide open.’
The 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Winners:
The Prize for Literature: Dr. Iman Mersal for her book In the Footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat (Fee Athar Enayat Al Zayyat)
The judges presented this award to Ms. Mersal for her unique and poignant exploration of the life of the Egyptian writer Enayat al Zayat who died in 1963 four years before her only novel was published. Mersal blends a mix of investigative journalism and storytelling to illuminate a writer’s struggles with mental health and uncover the roots of a woman’s search for identity in contemporary Arab society.
Iman Mersal is an Egyptian poet, writer, academic and translator. She works as an assistant professor of Arabic literature and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Alberta, Canada and currently resides in Marseille, France. An anthology of her works was translated into more than twenty-two languages and she has five poetry collections published. Herr book, Mamar Moetem Yasloh fee Talom Al Raks (A Dark Path Suitable for Learning to Dance), is one of the most important poetry books issued by the generation of the nineties in Arabic poetry.
The Prize for Young Author: Dr. Asma bint Muqbil bin Awad Al-Ahmadi for her book The Problems of the Narrated Self in the Saudi Feminist Novel (Eshkalyat Al-Thaat Al-Saredah Fee Al-Rwayah Al-Nesaayah Al-Saudiah)
The judges present this award to Dr. Asma bint Muqbil bin Awad Al-Ahmadi for her exploration of the themes of female identity through the lens of Saudi Arabian feminist literature, 1999-2012. This groundbreaking work focuses on topics that female Saudi writers have explored, such as belonging and self-realization.
A Saudi academic and critic, winner of the Sharjah Prize for Gulf Women’s Creativity 2019. Dr. Al-Ahmadi holds a PhD in Philosophy – Specializing in Arabic Language and Literature, and she is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Islamic Culture and Language Skills in the College of Science and Arts – King Abdulaziz University.
Prize for Children’s Literature: Mr. Mizouni Bannani for his book An Artist’s Journey (Rehlat Fannan)
The judges present this award to Mr. Bannani for his innovative use of language and multi-sensory educational techniques in ‘An Artist’s Journey‘. Mr. Bannani’s work is intended to inspire educators and children to learn through active participation and to ignite a sense of wonder and imagination in the process.
Mizouni Bannani is a Professor of Education Sciences at the Higher Institute for Applied Studies in Humanities in Sbeitla, Tunisia. He published two collections of short stories entitled Humma Al Ardh (The Fever of the Earth) in 1989, and Mawawil Aaed men Dhefat Al Nar (Mawawil of the One who Returned from the Shore of Fire) in 1996, in addition to a novel entitled Doroob Al Hawan (Paths of Humiliation). Bannani works as a literary and artistic consultant at Al Moanasah Publishing House and has participated in establishing the branch of the Union of Tunisian Writers in Kasserine in 1997 and chaired it until 2017.
Prize for Publishing & Technology: Dar Al Jadeed Publishing – Lebanon
The judges present this award to Dar Al-Jadeed Publishing for their continued dedication and focus on intellectual and linguistic studies. Their commitment to amplifying Arab poets and writers, as well as their dedication to young writers, has greatly fostered the Arab literary landscape.
Dar Al Jadeed Publishing was founded in Beirut in 2000 with a unique focus on long-forgotten topics in Arab publishing, as well as science books and linguistic and intellectual studies. The company was founded by late Lebanese writer and translator Lokman Slim and Rasha al Ameer as a strictly cultural project that pursues genuine skills and talents looking to be discovered and published in isolation from ideological considerations and partisanship. Bearing in mind the importance of science books to knowledge and the progress of a society, as well as the cultivation of rational, mythology-free knowledge.
Prize for Arabic Culture in Other Languages: Dr. Tahera Qutbuddin for her work Arabic Oration: Art and Function
The judges present this award to Chicago-based writer Tahera Qutbuddin for her close examination of oration in the Arabic language. Ms. Qutbuddin’s comprehensive exploration of the oration tradition in Arabic society allows for a deeper understanding of how this tradition has shaped the contemporary Arab world.
Tahera Qutbuddin is a Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago and serves on the editorial board of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Library of Arabic Literature. She obtained her PhD and MA from Harvard University, USA, Tamhidi Magister and BA from Ain Shams University, Cairo, and high school diploma from Sophia College, Mumbai. Her research focuses on intersections of the literary, the religious, and the political in classical Arabic poetry and prose.
Prize for Translation: Dr. Michael Cooperson for his translation of Impostures by Al-Hariri from Arabic to English
The judges present this award to Michael Cooperson for his bold and innovative approach to translation of the classic Arab work ‘Impostures’. Mr. Cooperson excellently translated the sentiments and emotions of the ‘Impostures‘ in such a way that makes for increased accessibility among English-speaking audiences.
Michael Cooperson is an American author and translator, Cooperson studied at Harvard University and the American University of Cairo, and currently a professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published two monographs on early Abbasid cultural history: ‘Classical Arabic Biography’ and ‘Al-Ma’mun’. In addition to Impostures, he has translated Abdelfattah Kilito’s ‘L’Auteur et ses doubles (The Author and his Doubles)’ and Ibn al-Jawzi’s ‘Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Virtues of the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal)’. His other interests include Maltese language and culture.
Prize for Literary and Art Criticism: Dr. Khelil Gouia for his book The Path of Modernisation in the Visual Arts: From Drawing to Painting (Massar al Tahdeeth fil Funoon al Tashkeeliyya men al Ursooma ela al Lawhah)
The judges present this award to Khelil Gouia for his narrative and research uncovers the progression of Tunisian art, illustrating connections between pre-modernist and contemporary forms of the art form.
Doctor Khelil Gouia is a professor of aesthetics, art theories and semiology of the image at the Higher Institute of Arts of the University of Sfax, Tunisia. He holds a PhD in arts sciences and techniques, specialising in art theories and history, as well as a professorial degree in philosophy from the University of Tunis, and an in-depth studies certificate in the history of modern art (ISBAT). His published books include Tashkeel Al Roya (The Formation of the Vision), Omarat Al Roya (The Architecture of the Vision), Bonyat Al Thaeykah wa Soltat Al Namothaj (The Structure of Taste and the Authority of the Model), Al Aamal Al Fanny wa Tahwolatoh bayn Al Nathar wa Al Natharyah (Artwork and Its Transformations between Theory and Theory, An Attempt in the Constructivism of Looking) and Masar Al Tahdeeth fe Al Fonoon Al Tashkelyah, men Al Orsomah ella Al Lawha (The Path of Modernisation in the Visual Arts, From Drawing to Painting).
Prize for Contribution to the Development of Nations: Dr. Saeed El-Masri for his book Legacy of Supremacy between Folklore and Religion (Turath al Este’la Bayn al Folklore wal Majal al Dini)
The judges present this award to Dr. Saeed El-Masri for his groundbreaking research into the history of arrogance in pre-modern and contemporary Arabic society. His exploration of arrogance gets to the root of how arrogance has contributed to the spread of extremism and hate within Arab society.
Saeed El-Masry is a Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, and an advisor to the Minister of Culture on the development of the cultural system in Egypt. Dr. El-Masry is a cultural anthropologist and holds a PhD in sociology. He won the United Nations Award for Excellence in Human Development in 2013 for the Egypt Human Development Report, which he participated in preparing in 2010. He also won the Arab Grand Prize for Heritage for the book Eaadat Entaj Al Turath Al Shaaby; Kayfa Yatshabath Al Fokaraa Belhayat fee thel Al.