Sheikh Zayed Book Award announces winners of its 17th edition

Abu Dhabi,

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA), organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced the winners for its 17th edition, which recorded the highest number of submissions across all nine categories since the Award’s launch, receiving a total of 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 over 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 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. 

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and member of the SZBA Board of Trustees, said: “The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is symbolic of the revival of Arab intellectual, cultural and social life through a literary lens. The 17th edition of the award is the latest milestone in a ground-breaking journey that has, over many years, showcased prominent works from the Arab region and beyond to ever wider audiences, enabling everyone to participate and share their talents on the world stage. The SZBA will remain committed to its mission to encourage intellectuals and creative talent who can lead a true shift and spearhead the contemporary cultural movement of the Arab world, building upon an enormous legacy of history and heritage.”

For his part, H.E. 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,” H.E. bin Tamim noted. “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 AED 1 million prize, while winners of other categories will each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit, and a prize of AED 750,000.

About the winners:

Ali Jaafar Alallaq – Iraq
Ali Jaafar Alallaq is an Iraqi Poet, critic, and university professor. He is the recipient of a Ph.D. in Modern Literature and Criticism in the UK in 1984, as well as of the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Award for poetry in its 16th edition in 2019. He is a Lecturer at the University of Baghdad and Mustansiriyah University, and editor-in-chief of Al-Aqlam magazine. From 1991 to 1997, he taught at Sanaa University before moving on to become a professor of modern literature and criticism at UAEU, where he served until 2015. His poetic and criticism experience has been the subject of over twelve theses in Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan, along with more than 15 criticism books written by Arab and Iraqi authors. His book al-Shi'r wa-al-talaqqi (Poetry and Reception) won the 1997 Sharjah International Book Fair Award for best book in literary creativity and was honoured by the First Arab Cultural Festival (Istanbul 2022) for its poetic, critical, and academic achievements. 

Alallaq is a member of several committees for poetry and criticism arbitration, including the King Faisal Prize, Cairo Prize for Arabic Poetry, Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity, Muhammad Afifi Matar Award in Cairo, Muhammad Al-Qaisi Prize in Amman, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) Prize, Albabtain Prize, Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity, and the Arabic Poetry Criticism Award in Sharjah. He has published over 20 poetry books, the most recent of which is Farashat Litabdeed Alwihda (Butterflies to Ward Off Loneliness), Amman, 2021, in addition to 11 books in prose, the most recent of which is Ila Ayn Ayyathouha Al Kaseedah (Where to, O Poem?) An Autobiography, Alaan Publishers, Amman, 2022.
Mathieu Tillier – France 
Mathieu Tillier, PhD (2004), Université Lumière-Lyon 2, is Professor of Medieval Islamic History at Sorbonne Université (Paris) and a member of the CNRS team “Orient & Méditerranée” (UMR 8167). His main research focuses on Islamic law and institutions. He is the author of Les cadis d’Iraq et l’État abbasside (132/750-334/945) (Damascus: Presses de l’Ifpo, 2009), and of L’invention du cadi. La justice des musulmans, des juifs et des chrétiens aux premiers siècles de l’Islam (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2017). He also edited Abū Hilāl al-ʿAskarī’s Kitāb mā ḥtakama bi-hi l-kḫulafā’ ilā l-quḍāt (Cairo: Ifao, 2011) and translated into French al-Kindī and Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī’s books on Umayyad and Abbasid Egyptian judges. His most recent work addresses papyri documents reflecting legal, social, and cultural practices in Medieval Egypt. With Naïm Vanthieghem, he recently edited a hadith manuscript on papyrus dating back to the ninth century CE (Supplier Dieu dans l’Égypte toulounide. Le florilège de l’invocation d’après Ḫālid b. Yazīd [iiie/ixe siècle], Leiden: Brill, 2022).

Said Khatibi – Algeria
Said Khatibi, Algerian writer Born on December 29, 1984, in Bou Saada. Graduated with a Bachelor in French Literature from the University of Algiers, then obtained a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from Paris 3 University. He has published translations, including Baiidan 'an Nejma (a translation of the poetry of Kateb Yacine) and Madar El Ghiyab (an anthology of Algerian short stories written in French), and participated in the translation of The Encyclopaedia of African Cinema. Khatibi published A’ras El Nar (on Raï music), and his book Abartou El Massa' Hafiyan included dialogues with key Francophone writers. To date, Khatibi has released four novels and has been active in cultural journalism since 2006, working and living in Slovenia since 2016. He has been awarded the Arab Journalism Award, Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature, and has been shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF).

Chokri Al Saadi – Tunisia 
Chokri Al Saadi is a Professor in Language Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Tunis and (former) head of the Arabic Language, Literature, and Civilization. He holds professorship, research, distinction, doctorate degrees, and university qualification in Arabic Language, Literature, and Civilisation. Al Saadi is the winner of the ALECSO-Sharjah Award for Language and Lexical Studies (2021); King Abdullah Bin AbdulAziz Award for Translation (jointly, Individual Efforts category, 5th session, 2011); Mishkat Al-Anwar Award in Literature, Arts, and Humanities (for the research presented in the Ph.D., Theoretical and Applied Linguistics Branch, 2nd session, 2008); and Award of His Excellency the President of the Republic (for excellency in his Bachelor of Arts degree, 1987). His books include: ‘Maqoulat Al Hadath Al Dalaliya Fil Tafkeer Al Lughawi: Bahth Fil Usus Al Dalaliya Lil Buna Al Nahawiya’ (The Category of Semantic Event in Linguistic Thinking: An Investigation of the Semantic Foundations of Grammatical Structures), Beirut, 2013; and ‘Qadaya Al Hadath Fil Lisaniyat Wa Falsafat Al Lugha’ (Event Semantics in Linguistics and Philosophy of Language), Tunis, 2016. Books he translated from French include ‘Histoire de la Linguistique: des Origines au XXe Siècle’ by Georges Mounin, Tunis, 1992, and from English ‘Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech’ by John Searle, Tunis, 2021.

Dr. Jalila Al Tritar – Tunisia
Professor Jalila Al Tritar is a Tunisian academic researcher, critic specialising in self-writing, and translator at the Institute of Translation of Tunis. She is a Professor of Higher Education in Modern Literature at the Department of Arabic Language, Literature, and Civilisation, of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tunis University. Al Jalila earned a Ph.D. in Modern Literature in 2000 and has authored various articles and studies in the field, which were published in peer-reviewed Arabic and French publications, in addition to writing entries in Arabic and foreign dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Dr. Al Tritar is a member of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Translation of Tunisia; Scientific Committee of Tunisian Pamphlets (publications of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences); and the Follow-up, Studies, And Arbitration Committees at Credif (Centre for Research, Studies, Documentation, and Media on Women). She is a Jury Member in various Tunisian awards (Comar, Kutama, Credif), as well as Arab awards, such as Assilah, Tawfiq Bakkar Award for Arabic Novel, and the Mustapha Azouz Award for Child Literature. Al Tritar is the recipient of two awards from Credif for Elements of Autobiography in Modern Arabic Literature in 2004, and Portrait Literature in 2011.

Dar ElAin Publishing – Egypt
Dar ElAin Publishing is an independent publishing house established in 2000 to provide a wide range of knowledge to Arab readers, focusing mainly on the fields of science, general Arabic culture, and translation. The institution seeks to present a selection of the best international works and has succeeded in attracting a wide network of authors and writers, renowned for their talent and originality, with more than 200 titles published in the original and translated languages.