The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, one of the Arab world’s most prestigious literary prizes, is now open for submissions for its 16th edition. The Award, which Le Monde has called the "Prix Goncourt of the Arab World", has a reputation for showcasing stimulating and ambitious work from and about the Arab world.
Now in its 16th year, the annual Award recognizes the work of writers, translators, researchers, academics and publishers in advancing Arab literature and culture. The 15th edition saw a record number of submissions with 2,349 entries from 57 countries including 584 in the literature category alone – an increase of one-third from the previous year. The shortlists also featured more women writers than ever before, with women dominating the Literature, Young Author and Children’s categories.
Each winner receives prize money of 750,000 UAE dirhams (US $204,000) to both recognise and further enable their creative and cultural achievements. Winners are also invited to the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair where this year they participated in a series of cultural talks including a 'Meet the Winners’ live event and a livestreamed winners ceremony.
His Excellency Dr Ali bin Tamim, Secretary General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, commented: “We now welcome submissions for the next edition of this prestigious literary prize, with the tributes of the 15th edition’s success still garnering attention in literary circles. We owe this success, not to chance or improvisation, but our disciplined planning, analysis and foresight to present Sheikh Zayed Book Award to the world in a manner that fits its namesake, status and position as a hub of creativity, culture, literature, translation and publishing. Held virtually or conventionally, the award has proved by way of example that it has earned the world’s respect and appreciation.”
This year also sees an expansion of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award Translation Grant for literary and children’s titles. All shortlisted authors’ books in these categories are made available for translation through the Award in order to bring these diverse voices to a global audience. So far nine works from previous editions have been translated into 5 languages (German, French, English, Italian and Ukrainian, and including the 15th edition shortlisted titles the Award has this year made a new range of titles available for translation.
British prize alumni Dame Marina Warner (Arabic Culture in Other Languages, 2013) has hailed the Award as one that nourishes the academic community, as “less of a trophy than a lavish bursary that allows the recipient to continue their adventures in understanding”, while French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf, winner of the 2016 Cultural Personality of the year, commented: "In such difficult times, it is more important than ever to focus on books and on cultural values. They alone can provide us with the moral compass we so desperately need to move on with our eyes wide open."
Iman Mersal (Literature winner, 2021) comments: "I am grateful to the Scientific Committee for choosing a book that represents the relentless pursuit of individuality that is often marginalised in Arab society. Literature is capable of shaping perceptions, honing personal and collective experiences and offering a glimpse into a world that is far more just and humane and far more accepting of people’s right to choose and be different."
Dr Asma Muqbil Awad Alahmadi, (Young Author winner, 2021) winner added: "I’m grateful for the Award’s work in promoting hope, diligence, development and knowledge through openness to one another and through mutual recognition, regardless of national borders or titles or gender laying the foundation for a true human renaissance."
Winning the award has enabled writers and organisations to expand and develop their projects, including 2020 winner Banipal magazine, who, since winning the prize, have launched the digital edition of Revista Banipal, the Spanish-language edition of the magazine.
Submissions are now open across nine categories, representing the range and breadth of Arab culture:
● Literature (including both fiction and poetry)
● Young Author (for writers under the age of 40)
● Children’s Literature
● Cultural Personality of the Year
● Publishing and Technology
● Arabic Culture in Other Languages
● Translation – either to or from Arabic
● Literary and Art Criticism
● Contribution to the Development of Nations
More information about individual categories is available on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award website.
Authors, publishers, and translators of any nationality can make submissions, which are welcomed from all countries in Arabic and other languages. Works must be written in Arabic, except for works nominated for the Translation category (translated either to or from Arabic), and works nominated for the category Arabic Culture in Other Languages, which accepts works in English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish. To register and submit online, visit the SZBA submissions website register.zayed award.ae.
For more information on the Translation Fund, and to apply for funding, publishers and agents may visit the website.