The winners of the 13th annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which aims to promote scholarship and creativity in Arab culture, gathered during the 2019 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) for a special panel session, with fans having the chance to pose questions to the famed authors as they discussed their winning works.
The winners were introduced by Dr Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and Professor Dr Khalil Al Sheikh, a seasoned researcher, critic and translator.
During the gathering on the Main Stage, Dr Bin Tamim told the packed audienc: "The Sheikh Zayed Book Award will always be loyal to objectivity and we are delighted to be gathered here in the presence of the winners of the award.”
Dr Al Sheikh said that the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is "an honour and an exploration and the cultural knowledge of the Arab world" and shed a light on both established and new writing talent.
Among those who were honoured were Moroccan writer and novelist Bensalem Himmich, who won the ‘Literature’ category award; Kuwaiti author Hussain Almutawaa, who won the ‘Children’s Literature’ category; and Algerian scholar Dr Abderrezak Belagrouz, winner of the ‘Young Author’ category. In the ‘Literary and Art Criticism’ category, scholar Dr Charbel Dagher from Lebanon won the award for his book Contemporary Arabic Poetry. The ‘Arab Culture in Other Languages’ category was won by British academic and researcher Philip F. Kennedy, while the UAE’s Arab Centre for Geographic Literature – Irtiyad al-Afaq won the ‘Publishing and Technology’ category award. Arabic scholars Professor Jaroslav Stetkevych and Professor Suzanne Stetkevych won the ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ category.
Each writer gave a five-minute overview of their winning works, with Dr Himmich saying he was “very proud” of the word which earned him the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. “As I have said many times, this award is a great honour and a great responsibility at the same time."
Mr Almutawaa said he was "very honoured” to be among his fellow recipients of the award, while Dr Belagrouz described the award as “the Arab’s Nobel Prize for celebrating young authors”. Dr Dagher also spoke of his pride in receiving the Sheikh Zayed Book Award saying the award “proves year-after-year its honestly and value in the Arab cultural space”.
Dr Kennedy, who won the award for his 2016 work, Recognition in the Arabic Narrative Tradition: Discovery, Deliverance and Delusion, said his works were inspired by the philosopher Aristotle: “I have to express my appreciation to the Secretary General and to the Sheikh Zayed Book Award...I am very proud to win this award."
Professor Jaroslav Stetkevych, who was awarded the Cultural Personality of the Year along with his wife Suzanne, spoke of their joint work exploring the Arabic poetry tradition, which he described one of the richest and oldest poetic traditions in the world.
Launched in 2007, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is aimed at recognising writers, scholars and publishing houses for their works that have helped enrich the Arab literary and cultural scene. The award has also grown on a global level, with submissions for the prize coming from both the Arab world and beyond. Spread across different categories, each winner receives a cash prize of AED 750,000 . The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award receives an AED 1 million cash prize.