Sheikh Zayed Book Award Releases Multiple Translations of its Winning Titles

Abu Dhabi,

Four prize-winning books translated into English, French, German and Ukrainian 

As part of its efforts to enhance the presence of Arabic literature at a global level, Sheikh Zayed Book Award has released translations of four winning titles in its ‘Literature’ and ‘Children’s Literature’ categories. The works were published in English, French, German and Ukrainian, in collaboration with four international publishing houses and in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Arabic Language Day, which falls on 18 December each year.

Award-winning books translated in the Children’s Literature category include the 2019 novel I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer by Kuwaiti author, Hussain al-Mutawaa. This was translated into English and French in collaboration with Canadian publisher BookLand Press, and into German with Sujet Verlag UG. Also included was the 2017 novel Hatless by Kuwaiti writer Lateefa Buti, which was translated into French in collaboration with Canadian publisher, BookLand Press.

Within the Literature category, the award-winning titles include the 2017 novel The Autumn of Innocence by Lebanese writer, Abbas Beydoun, which was translated into Ukrainian in collaboration with Anetta Antonenko Publishers. Also included was the 2015 novel The Madmen of Bethlehem by Palestinian author, Osama Alaysa, which was translated into French by Belleville éditions, following its translated into Ukrainian during 2019 by Anetta Antonenko Publishers.

His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, said: “Translation is an essential tool for building bridges between different nations around the world, as it plays an integral part in representing cultures, literature and heritage in different languages. Through the translation fund, we want to offer readers around the world a window through which they can explore the best Arabic literary works in their own languages.”

He added: “We are committed to supporting Arab authors, as through our grants we’re offering the opportunity for international publishers to translate award-winning works into multiple languages, enriching the global literature scene with the best Arabic works. We are glad to see the translation grant, which is open to all publishing houses from around the world, succeed in generating publicity for winning works of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and so, from 2021 on, the grant will be made available for all titles that are shortlisted.”

Madjid Mohit, Publisher and Executive Director of Sujet Verlag UG, which received the grant to translate I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer into German, said: “Hussain Al Mutawaa’s novel is an opportunity to introduce and promote diversity and open-mindedness to children, thanks to its compelling story and beautiful illustrations. The book deals with the conflict between tradition and modern progress, which is extremely topical. In the past few years many people of Arabic origin have come to Germany and this bilingual book is part of the cultural exchange necessary for their integration. We are incredibly grateful for the SZBA translation grant as their support allowed us to translate and publish this wonderful book into the German language.”

Antonenko Anetta, Director of Anetta Antonenko Publishers, which received the grant to translate The Autumn of Innocence into Ukrainian, said: “I personally look for interesting titles from around the world and believe that Arabic literature in Ukraine is poorly represented. I was interested in the story itself and I think it will resonate with our readers, as it expresses its subject from a worldview, especially when it comes to future prospects. For the Ukrainian reader, this book promotes dialogue and intellectualism that contribute to creating a prosperous future. I am convinced that after the publication of three-or-four translated titles I will be able to attract a wide audience to read more Arabic literature.”

Dorothy Aubert is Director of Belleville éditions, which received the grant to translate The Madmen of Bethlehem into French, and she commented: “Receiving the grant was a wonderful surprise to us, since we were interested in the book before knowing it won the prize. Osama Alaysa’s topics are not really represented in our market, so we feel that it’s important to bring this kind of book to readers. Also, we love the style of the author and his clever way of dealing with different subjects. SZBA’s grant is so helpful since it offered us a very comfortable budget to work on good promotion and enabled us to work with a very good translator.”

In addition, Robert Morgan, General Manager of BookLand Press, which received the grant to translate I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer into English and French, and Hatless into French, said: “The publication of these books in English and French gives us a unique opportunity to introduce North American readers to creative and talented contemporary Arab authors and illustrators who, until now, were relatively unknown in these markets. In my opinion, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is one of the best international awards for the promotion of literature to foreign markets available today.”

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award launched the translation fund initiative in 2018 to promote the spread of Arabic literature around the world, as the initiative provides financial funding of up to 19,000 US dollars per winning title and is available to all publishing houses working to publish books in foreign languages. In its inaugural year, the grant was awarded to Marcus Y Marcus, which translated the novel The Dinoraf by Emirati writer, Hessa Al Muhairi, into English, French and Italian, and Anita Antonenko Publishers, which translated the novel The Madmen of Bethlehem by the Palestinian writer, Osama Alaysa, into Ukrainian.

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