Mersal, Al-Ahmadi and Bannani among Sheikh Zayed Award winners

Mersal, Al-Ahmadi and Bannani among Sheikh Zayed Award winners

Egyptian writer Iman Mersal has won the Literature category of this year's Sheikh Zayed Award, in a year that sees studies of Saudi women writers and the tradition of Arab oration receive prizes. 

Mersal (pictured above) won the category with Fee Athar Enayat Al Zayyat (In the Footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat), published by Al Kotob Khan Library in 2019. The book is based upon the life of the Egyptian writer who died in 1963 four years before her only novel was published, and has been published in multiple editions in Arabic. As a poet, translator and novelist, Mersal’s work has been translated into 22 languages. How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts is available in English from Seagull Books. Along with the other category winners, she will receive 750,000 UAE dirhams (US$204,000).

The Young Author prize was awarded to Saudi author Dr Asma Muqbil Awad Al-Ahmadi, for her study of Saudi women writers, Eshkalyat Al Thaat Al Saredah Fee Al Rwayah Al Nesaayah Al Saudiah (The Problems of the Narrated Self in the Saudi Feminist Novel 1999 – 2012, Arab Scientific Publishers Inc, 2020). 

The Children’s Literature prize went to Rehlat Fannan (An Artist's Journey) by Tunisian author Mizouni Bannani, published by Dar Al Mua'nasa Publishing, 2020. In the book, for children of 9+, birds can speak as they fly across and through the world. The judges describedthe book as "rich in imagery and proceeds slowly but excitingly, and is infused with imagination." 

The prize for Publishing and Technology was awarded to Dar Al Jadeed, Lebanon, a publishing house founded in Beirut in 2000 by late Lebanese writer and translator Lokman Slim and Rasha al Ameer. The judges noted the company’s poetry collections and anthologies of leading Arab poets, and praised its new editions of classic works, its literary and intellectual ambition, and commitment to nurturing young and emerging writers.

The award for Arab Culture in Other Languages was given to Arabic Oration: Art and Function by US researcher Tahera Qutbuddin (Brill Publishers, 2019). The book explores how oration, the Qur’an and poetry were foundational in the earliest Arabic literary tradition.

The Translation prize was awarded to Impostures, a work of fiction by Al-Hariri, translated from Arabic to English by US translator Michael Cooperson (Library of Arabic Literature, 2020). The judges praised the book's "bold, mature and innovative approach to translation".

The award for Literary and Art Criticism went to Massar al Tahdeeth fil Funoon al Tashkeeliyya men al Ursooma ela al Lawhah (The Evolution of Art from Doodle to Painting) by Tunisian researcher Khelil Gouia, published by Mohammad Ali Publishing House in 2020. The book explores Tunisian art history since the emergence of the Ursooma, a form of Islamic art based on painting on glass, through to painting in the contemporary sense of the world, which emerged in the early 20th century.

The prize for Development of Nations was awarded to Turath al Este'la Bayn al Folklore wal Majal al Dini (The History of Arrogance: Between Faith & Folklore) by Egyptian researcher Saeed El-Masry, published by Batana Publishing & Distribution in 2019. The book explores the roots of arrogance in folklore as well as in political Islam groups.

Dr Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and secretary general of the award, commented: “Despite the challenges of 2020 we were delighted to see a record-breaking year with submissions of exceptional quality. As one of the Arab world’s leading cultural awards we are proud to support a flourishing international publishing landscape and pleased to see winners are from five countries across the globe. The judges were especially impressed with the range of genres, the breadth of topics and the ambition of the scholars and writers represented here. This year’s winners highlight the depth and prestige of the Award in the Arab world and beyond. We commend their achievement and look forward to seeing more superb work in the years to come.”

The awards will be formally presented via a livestream ceremony streamed from Youtube during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which runs from 23rd to 29th May 2021.