Seven winners of Sheikh Zayed Book Awards (SZBA) were announced this morning.
The eighth prize, for literature, was withheld.
Although six titles had been shortlisted for the “literature” prize — including five novels and a critical study — the prize was given to none. The SZBA committee said the shortlisted books did not meet the award’s “stringent norms,” according to The National.
The shortlisted novels had included The Bride’s Tea by Iraqi author Maysaloon Hadi, published by Dar al Shorouk, and Yahya, by Jordanian writer Samiha Ali Khrais, published by Dar Thaqafa, as well as novels by Jordanian author Hisham Saleh Abdallah, Moroccan author Mohammed Gharnate, and Syrian author Mousa Abbas. There were no books this year that made both the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) and the SZBA lists.
This non-awarding of the literature prize is not likely to do much for the profile of an award that already languished in the shadow of the IPAF. Despite the SZBA’s 750,000 AED in prize money, the award has not captured public attention like the IPAF, or “Arabic Booker.”
The SZBA committee did choose four winning books. The “fine arts” category was won by Egypt’s current minister of culture, Dr. Shaker Abdel Hamid, for his book Art and Eccentrics. The young author award went to Tunisian author Layla al-Obaidi for her work of sociocultural criticism, Al Fakh in Islam. The “children’s literature” category was at least won by literature: It went to Lebanese poet, memoirist, and critic Abdo Wazen for his YA novel The Boy Who Saw the Color of Air.
According to Ali Bin Tamim, the award’s secretary general, Abdo Wazen’s book was chosen because he constructed a beautiful narrative that highlighted the lives of people with special needs. A reviewer for Laha Magazine enjoyed the book and thought it a good one to include in upper-school curricula. Reviewers on Goodreads, however, were considerably more ambivalent.
The fourth winning book was in the translation category, A Prelude to Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, translated from the German by Abou Yaareb Al Marzouqi, which perhaps got extra points for difficulty.
The other prizes went for publishing and distribution (Brill Publishing House), best technology in the field of culture (Korean Paju Book City), and cultural personality of the year, which went to…UNESCO.
The awards ceremony is set to be held on March 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company.
Banipal has published a number of prose and poetic works by Abdo Wazen; a few of his poems, trans. Sinan Antoon, are available online.