Sheikh Zayed Book Award to Host Cultural Seminar with Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies in Granada

Abu Dhabi,

Event will feature Spanish and global experts in Arabic literature, Islamic studies, and translation and highlight the Award’s role in promoting Arabic literature worldwide.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award will host an international seminar on 28 September titled ‘Arab Literature and World Literature: What is the Arabic Literary Canon?’, in collaboration with the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (FUNDEA) in Granada, where the event will take place. The seminar will discuss the importance of Arabic literature in academia and publishing, and explore the history and theoretical frameworks specific to this rich literary canon.

The seminar comes as part of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award's commitment to cross-cultural exchange and promoting Arabic language and literature around the world. A longstanding cultural crossroads, Granada is an ideal host city, possessing a literary history that spans centuries and is intertwined with Arabic literature and culture.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award delegation includes His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary-General of the Award and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), and His Excellency Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji, Executive Director of the ALC. The seminar will bring together renowned experts, speakers, and practitioners in Arabic literature, Islamic studies, and translation studies from Spain and around the world.

Through the event, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award aims to raise awareness of the Award among Spanish academic networks in Spain, especially academic and literary institutions. This collaboration also aims to increase awareness of Arabic culture and literature in Spain by building a long-term relationship with partners FUNDEA and the University of Granada, to organise additional future events involving writers, academics and experts in Arabic culture from Spanish universities. 

Enlightening debate
The seminar will open with a session featuring His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim; Pedro Mercado Pacheco, Dean of the University of Granada; and Antonio Sanchez Ortega, Executive Secretary of FUNDEA. The discussion will address overlaps between Arabic and Spanish cultures that have evolved over centuries, and whose features and spirit are still prominent in various works and literary studies.

Next will be ‘The Arabic Literary Canon: Between Old and New References’, moderated by Desirée López Bernal, a professor in the Semitic Studies Department at the University of Granada who specialises in Arabic and Islamic studies. Participants include Sanae Chairi, a translator, professor and researcher at the Hassan II University of Al Mohammadia, and Muhsin Al Musawi, a professor of classical and modern Arabic literature, comparative and cultural studies at Columbia University in New York. Chairi will discuss the Moroccan literary canon, while ". The Moroccan reference has been a subject of study and criticism since Morocco's independence to the present day, highlighting its uniqueness and specificity compared to its eastern counterpart. Given the astonishing development of time, mentality, tastes, and the strategic vision of the country, there is an urgent need to enrich the Moroccan literary reference with other significant works.

 Meanwhile, Muhsen Al Musawi will address the differences among the Andalusians since Ibn Abd Rabih compiled his encyclopedia. Al Musawi's intervention also looks at the contributions of the people of the Peninsula and what distinguishes them from the Easterners, in addition to the cultural elements resulting from the amalgamation between the Arab heritage and what the indigenous inhabitants retained in their memory, such as "Al Muwashah".

The writer Antonio Jesús Alías Bergel, Professor of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature at University of Granada will moderate the next session, ‘Inter Influences of Spanish and Arabic Literature’. Participants include Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and Desirée López Bernal. Parrilla will discuss the richness of Arabic literature and its history by writers like Jurji Zaidan. He also addresses the process of "Al Mufhama" as a crucial and influential step in constructing the concept of "Arabic Literature" today. The discussion also explores when the concept of "Arabic Literature" emerged and how the literary reference of Arabic in Spanish was established through the first literary histories published in Spanish. Desirée López Bernal will present a study on the short story in narrative literature and the oral tradition in Spain during the Golden Age. The review of various scientific approaches that worked on the study topic will be presented, showing where the Arab element remained in the study.

A final session, ‘Gender in the Arabic Literary Canon’, will be moderated by Elena Arigita, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at University of Granada and  feature Mònica Rius Piniés, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at University of Barcelona and UNESCO Chair "Women, Development and Cultures", and Ana González Navarro, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Piniés will discuss the need for intersectional and gender perspectives in the Arabic literary canon, while González Navarro will explore the evolution of literary criticism centered around history written by women. 

The Arab-European Foundation for Higher Studies is a non-profit research, educational, and cultural institution based in Granada. The foundation works to promote dialogue and cooperation between EU countries and the League of Arab States by encouraging Arab-European cooperation through organising academic, social, and cultural activities.

The University of Granada is a prestigious public university established in 1531. It is the only university in Spain that offers the possibility to study translation and simultaneous interpretation with Arabic as the first foreign language. It is a leading institution for Arabic studies in Spain, given Granada's rich Andalusian history.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, has opened nominations for its eighteenth edition. Until 1 October 2023, the Award is accepting international entries in Spanish in four categories: Translation, Arabic Culture in Other Languages, Editing of Arabic Manuscripts, and Publishing and Technology.