Six translations of award-winning Arabic titles launched through annual Translation Grants

Abu Dhabi,

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) is delighted to announce the translations of four winning Arabic titles from its ‘Literature’ and ‘Children’s Literature’ categories, as a result of its rolling Translation Grants. The Grants, which are open to any publisher outside of the Middle East, are part of the Award’s efforts to enhance the presence of Arabic literature on a global scale. 

In collaboration with international publishing houses, SZBA has released six translations of four prize-winning books in four languages, including: 

  • The novel The Madmen of Bethlehem by Palestinian author Osama Alaysa (winner of the 2015 Literature award), translated into French by François Zabbal, published by Belleville éditions.
  • The novel The Autumn of Innocence by Lebanese novelist and poet Abbas Beydoun (winner of the 2017 Literature award), translated into Ukranian by Bohdan Horvat for Anetta Antonenko Publishers.
  • I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer by Kuwaiti author Hussain al-Mutawaa (winner of the 2019 Children’s Literature Award), translated into English by Sophia Vasalou and into French by Hana Jaber, published by Canadian publisher BookLand Press Inc; and translated into German by Suleman Taufiq, published by Sujet Verlag UG.
  • Hatless by Kuwaiti author Lateefa Buti (winner of the 2019 Children’s Literature Category Award), translated into French by Hana Jaber, published by BookLand Press Inc.
For the first time since the SZBA launched the Translation Grants in 2018, funding will apply to all shortlisted titles as well as the winning books from 2021. Expanding the number and range of titles marks the strength of the Award’s commitment to creating the infrastructure for the long-term exchange of diverse Arabic culture and ideas, making it a leader among prizes in the region. 

His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Chairman of 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 grant, we want to offer readers around the world a window through which they can explore the best Arabic literary works in their own languages.
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.

Dorothy Aubert, Director, Belleville éditions said: “Receiving the grant was a wonderful surprise to us since we were interested in the book before knowing it won the Literature award. 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 offers us a very comfortable budget to work on good promotion, and also to work with a very good translator.’

Anetta Antonenko, Director of Anetta Antonenko Publishers, said: “I personally look for interesting titles around the world and believe that Arabic literature in Ukraine is poorly represented. I was interested in the story itself, which will resonate with our readers, as it expresses a worldview of tragic events. 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 to four titles in Arabic I will be able to attract a wide audience to read more Arabic literature.” 

Madjid Mohit, Publisher and Executive Director of Sujet Verlag UG, said: “Hussain Al Mutawaa’s book 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.”

Robert Morgan, General Manager, BookLand Press, said: “The publication of Hatless and I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer in translation from Arabic 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 the English-speaking and French-speaking markets. In my opinion, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is one of the best international programmes for promotion of literature to foreign markets available today.”