2020 Longlists announced for 15th edition of the prize

Abu Dhabi,

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) has announced the longlists for the Award’s 15th edition (2020-2021). Among the nine Award categories, Literature is the second most popular category and received a record number of 584 submissions this year from 6 Arab countries – an increase of one-third from 2019.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, described as ‘The Arab world’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize’ by 2020 Children’s Literature laureate, Ibtisam Barakat, sets out to recognise some of the most challenging and exciting works coming from the Arab world. The winners receive prize money of 750,000 UAE dirhams (£166,000 / $204,000).

This year’s Literature longlist features 12 titles, including 3 works of poetry, 7 novels and a non-fiction work by authors from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and the first ever entry by a Sudanese author.

The authors longlisted for the Literature category, 3 women and 9 men, include the Lebanese poet Alawiya Sobh, who has twice been nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Egyptian novelist Ezzat El-Kamhawi, who was shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in 2018, Rashid Al-Dai, who has been named ‘The Arab World’s Answer to Italo Calvino or Umberto Eco’ (Al-Ahram Weekly), the female Egyptian writer Iman Mersa recognised world-wide for her experimental style, and the internationally acclaimed poets Ahmed Al-Shahawi, Rawda El-Haj, and Mohammed Ibrahim Yaghob.

Saudi novelist Magbul Al-Alwai, twice longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Saudi author Hessein Ali Hessein, Iraqi writer Naim Abd Muhalhal and Egyptian author Mohamed Al-Mansi Qandeel complete the Literature longlist.

This month also sees the announcement of five other categories, ranging from Children’s Literature to Translation to Arabic Culture in Other Languages. Across the categories, SZBA received first-time submissions from twelve countries, including Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina, Eritrea, Finland, Greece, Indonesia, Niger, Singapore, South Africa, and Switzerland.

The Translation longlist for 2020/2021 contains nine titles translated from Arabic, English, French and Italian, representing the works of translators based in Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Italy and the USA. The Translation longlist can be found online here. The Young Author category received the most entrants this year, with 646 submissions, and the longlist of authors can be found here.

The shortlists for all categories will be announced in March 2021, and the winner in April 2021. A special winners’ ceremony will be hosted by the Award in May 2021 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Many of these longlisted writers have already had their work translated into foreign languages. 2018 saw the launch of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award Translation Grant, which aims to support further translations and distribution, and to introduce winners to an international audience. Currently 19 titles are being supported by the fund.

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Authority and Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, said of this year’s submissions:

“Despite the challenges of 2020, we have seen that culture endures and adapts under the most difficult of conditions. This year, for the 15th edition, we have recorded the highest ever number of submissions in the Award’s 14-year history, reinforcing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s importance in the face of challenges to the publishing sector. We have an
exceptionally strong longlist in the Literature category this year, and are delighted with the range of writing represented. Our mission is to nurture and promote Arabic culture, and it is with great fulfillment that we have seen the Award flourish year on year to showcase the best of Arab creativity, intellect and scholarship to the world.”

The Literature category longlist:

The novels include:

An Taashaq Al-Hayat (To Love Life) by Lebanese author Alawiya Sobh, published by Dar Al Adab Publishing & Distribution in 2020

Wajooh Al-Hosh (The Faces of the Courtyard) by Saudi Arabian author Hessein Ali Hessein published by Le Centre Culturel Du Livre in 2020

Ghorfat Al-Mosafree (The Passengers Hall) by Egyptian novelist and journalist Ezzat El-Kamhawi, published by Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah in 2020

Al-Amirah wal Khatem (The Princess and the Ring) by Lebanese author Rashid El-Daif, published by Dar Al Saqi in 2020

Fee Athar Enayat Al-Zayyat (In the Footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat) by Egyptian poet, essayist, and translator Iman Mersal from Egypt, published by Al Kotob Khan Library in 2019

Safar Barlik (Seferberlik) by the Saudi Arabian novelist Maqbul Al-Alawi, published by Dar Al Saqi in 2019

Hadaeqohon Al-Moaalqah (Their Hanging Gardens) by Kuwaiti writer, poet and journalist Najma Idris, published by Dar Al Adab Publishing & Distribution in 2019

Tabeeb Aryaf (Countryside Doctor) by Egyptian novelist Mohamed El-Mansi Qandeel, published by Dar El Shorouk Publishing & Distribution in 2020

Tawrat Al-Mutanabbi (The Torah of Al-Mutanabbi) by Iraqi poet and storyteller Naim Abd Muhalhal, published by Dar Ninawa Studies, Publishing & Distribution in 2019

The longlisted poetic works include:

Etha Hama Matar Al-Kalam (When Words Pour like Rain) by Sudanese poet Rawda El-Haj, published by Dar Al Misk Publishing & Distribution in 2020

Ma Ana Feeh (What I’m Going Through) by Egyptian poet Ahmed Al-Shahawi, published by Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah in 2020

Maqam Nesyan (The Shrine of Forgetfulness) by Saudi Arabian poet Mohammed Ibrahim Yaghob, published by Arab Diffusion Company in 2019