Sheikh Zayed Book Award Aims for Big Impact at Frankfurt Book Fair 2021 With Insightful Literary Panels

Abu Dhabi,

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, is set to take a series of impactful cultural activations to the 73rd Frankfurt International Book Fair (FBF), which will take place from 20 - 24 October under the theme ‘Re:Connect’.

Occupying a dedicated space within the ALC pavilion at the fair, SZBA will host three insightful panel sessions to engage publishers, authors and other fair-goers. The panels will be delivered in English live via Frankfurt Studio, as well as streamed in Arabic on the SZBA YouTube channel after the event, in order to ensure maximum engagement with the fair’s diverse audiences around the world. 

“The Sheikh Zayed Book Award has a long history of taking part in the Frankfurt Book Fair – one of the foremost events in the literary and publishing worlds. We are delighted to be here for yet another edition of the fair, where leading authors, publishers, and influential industry professionals come together to learn, collaborate and connect with their readers,” said His Excellency Dr Ali bin Tamim, Secretary-General of the SZBA and Chairman of ALC. “The connection between the Arab and German literary scenes is deep-rooted and continues to grow significantly, and our panel sessions represent a uniquely advantageous opportunity for us to fulfil our mission to foster cultural exchange and promote Arabic language and literature to larger and more diverse audiences.”

The first event on the agenda is ‘Untapped Potential of Arabic Literature’, taking place on Thursday 21 October at 11am UAE time. Held in collaboration with Publishing Perspectives, the US-based leading trade magazine for the international book publishing industry, affiliated with the Frankfurt Book Fair. The session will explore the reasons why many great Arabic writers have yet to be translated into other languages, discuss the writers they believe deserve more international attention, and outline how publishers can get to know the deep canon of great classic and modern works from the Arab world.

Moderated by Publishing Perspectives’ own Editor-in-Chief Porter Anderson, the panel will feature Kevin Blankinship, poet, critic, translator, and assistant professor of Arabic Literature at the USA’s Brigham Young University; Chip Rossetti, Editorial Director of the Library of Arabic Literature; and Yasmina Jraissati, Publishing Manager of Storytel, Dubai and founder of RAYA literary agency. 

Next will be the ‘Publishing Arabic Books – Opportunities and Challenges’ panel, taking place at 2pm UAE time on Thursday 22 October, in collaboration with Litprom Cultural Foundation – an affiliate of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The discussion will explore what has impeded Arabic literature from entering Western markets, the topics that most interest international readers, and ways to support Arabic literature abroad. The session will then debate which books by non-Arab authors could be introduced to the Arab market to most resonate with Arab readers.

The featured speakers will be Rasha Al Ameer, Publisher at Dar Al Jadeed and winner of the SZBA 2021 Publishing & Technology Award; Yasmina Jraissati, Publishing Manager of Storytel, Dubai; and Piero Salabè, Editor of Hanser Verlag – Munich. Lena Bopp, Editor of German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), will moderate the discussion.

Immediately afterwards will be the third and final event, ‘It’s Only a Children’s Book – The Complexity of the Supposedly Simple’, held on 22 October at 3pm UAE time, also in collaboration with Litprom Cultural Foundation. The panel will underline the great skill it requires to develop literary works targeted at children. Speakers will discuss the challenges of writing, translating, and publishing children’s books, the types of books that are considered acceptable for children, and explore how to develop such works from a linguistic, narrative and illustrative point of view.

Moderated by translator Leila Chammaa, the session will feature Ibtisam Barakat, author, artist, and winner of SZBA 2020 Children’s Literature Award for her book The Lilac Girl; Madjid Mohit, publisher and Executive Director of publisher Sujet Verlag; and author and translator Suleman Taufiq.

In addition to organising panel sessions, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award will showcase a selection of its newly translated winning titles at the ALC pavilion in Hall 4.1/G5. 

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award honours the outstanding achievements of innovators and thinkers in literature, the arts, and humanities in Arabic and other languages. Launched in 2006, the Award aims to advance Arabic literature and culture, providing new opportunities for Arabic-language writers. Authors writing about Arab culture and civilisation in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian also are recognised by the Award.