New Lit Websites, New Lit Prizes

Three New Websites

Editoriaraba: Un blog per raccontare le novità editoriali del mondo arabo!

I know that a number of ArabLit’s readers come from Italy; here is an ArabLit source that does me one better: It’s in Italian. Also, a handy-dandy editorial calendar.

Kifah Libya’s Literature Section

One of the new magazine’s opening sallies was Naila Kelani’s Genres Of The “Arab Spring”: Narrating Revolutions

They say: “Kifah Libya is an independent, online magazine created to offer in-depth and critical analysis of Libyan political, social, and cultural affairs.” I’m delighted to see that this just-launched mag is making an effort to run a literature section.

We Love Arabic

This is a new site aimed at providing resources for students and teachers of Arabic. But it’s not just straight-up teaching: Ruth has recently included notes about her favorite Jordanian bookseller, as well as Arabic-lit events in London.

New £130,000 Sheikh Zayed Award for Cultural Works in non-Arabic Languages

I regret to say that I don’t have great confidence in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA).

While it may be, as the press release says, “one of the world’s most…well-funded prizes,” I far prefer a prize where I can meet with the judges, poke them, prod them, ask them questions, turn them on their heads, spin them around…. And so on. I don’t mind disagreeing with judges’ decisions. But I don’t like feeling that there’s something opaque to a prize, like I’m being kept out of the good secrets (like why this year’s SZBA literature prize went to no one, for instance).

Be that as it may! You may still want to win £130,000, so the details are thus and such:

The category, branded as “Sheikh Zayed Award for Arab Culture in non-Arabic languages” and worth £130,000, is devised to honor best written works in English, German and Chinese languages on the subject of the Arabic civilization and culture including novels, short stories, poems, biographies, history and arts.

You can apply between now and September 30, 2012.

BTBA 2013

Well, I said “prizes,” so I thought I’d better tack on a justification for making it plural. Over at The Literary Saloon, M.A. Orthofer (judge of this year’s Best Translated Book Awards, which went to the wonderful Polish novel Stone Upon Stone, trans. Bill Johnston) tosses out some ideas about BTBA 2013, including Miral al-Tahawy’s Brooklyn Heights.


  1. I agree with you Marcia, this award in ” opaque” but the same applies to other awards like etisalat who keep the identity of it’s jurors a complete mystery. They claim that by doing so they are protecting the jurors from getting influenced by personal relationships. Why assign jurors who are easily influenced in the first place?!?!
    I add , all awards in our part of the world lack credibility

  2. @Rania Zaghir and @LynxQualy I strongly disagree with both of you on your notoriously groundless judgment on literary prizes in “our part of the world”. I lived in the middle east for the past 10 years and have mastered the Arabic Language to be able to communicate and clearly get their point of view on many areas in the book industry including awards (one of which is the Zayed Book Award).
    My honest advice for you 1. Do your homework! Read more about what other renowned and respected authors, translators and cultural institutes have said about the Zayed Book Award (in their own language). 2. Learn Arabic (since you are interested in the writings of this language) to understand about Awards “in this part of the world” and its organizers (lack of language proficiency is major influence to the distorted image you have) especially with an Award that is targeted at Arab writers and authors (Would you throw your judgments on Grand Prix de Littérature Policière without a bit of homework first , I hope not!) 3. Do not generalize- this is a fatal mistake to avoid, if you wish your critique/ideas be taken seriously by the book trade audience out there. I hope your future “opinions” are voiced out after thorough investigation.
    P.S When the Pulitzer prize for fiction was withheld this year, it got its share of criticism or not awarding the one of the nominees. So yes this is not the first time a respected prize exercises its right to do so.
    Heather, M

    1. Heather,

      I’m afraid you are conflating two people here, the poster & the commenter.

      1) Rania (the commenter) writes award-winning books in Arabic. I (the poster) do not. In fact, I don’t write award-winning books in any language. Nor have I been affiliated with any literary prizes, except to try to understand them as a blogger/journalist.

      2) Rania (the commenter) is generalizing about awards in our region. I (the poster) am questioning only, in this instance, the SZBA.

      3) I had the very specific experience with the SZBA of not being able to find out why the literature award was withheld. “No quality books” was repeated to me again and again. But why the shortlist, then? How exactly was the shortlist chosen? Why weren’t the judges available for interview? If you know why it was withheld, I’d love to understand. Perhaps it should’ve been withheld by some funny snafu, but I would like to understand why and how the process works.

      4) By contrast, I understand exactly how the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) works, and have been able to poke, prod, up-end the judges, etc. Same goes for some other prizes I’ve followed. For instance, I disagree with Rania about the Etisalat prize. You can question their choices, but in the end I saw the judges and was able to question them.

      My criticisms are specifically to the SZBA, specifically because I have been unable to understand this award. Maybe it’s my fault, as you say, for not understanding! For not poking hard enough, asking the right questions of the right people. I was in Abu Dhabi when the IPAF and SZBA awards were given this year. The IPAF does a much better job, at the very least, at showing you what they’re doing & why they’re doing it.

  3. Nor am I the only one to raise questions about the prize. HOWEVER, there is probably an element of dodginess to all literary prizes worldwide. I don’t really know; this is the only place where I have really tried to understand the process.

    Which is not to say there hasn’t been criticism of the IPAF (, and more). But I prefer not to hear from others but to understand for myself. Again, it could be I just didn’t try hard enough to understand.

  4. Thank you for your prompt response.
    I’m in no position to judge your work or writings, but -from my experience in the region and from my interaction with the cultural bodies and officials, in the UAE specifically- I can say you’ve missed out a lot on your journey following the cultural movement happening around here. Knowing this region inside out for the past decade, I’ve realized that we –westerners or Arabs detached from their heritage- tend to compare it the mature cultures in other parts of the world, while on the contrary we should admire the passion invested into their work amidst the political distractions and intrusions. We so ignorantly erect our crosses to crucify them against a set of blindly-followed standards, instead of giving them their chance to prove what they are capable of.
    I understand your admiration with IPAF and the way it is operating, but what you might not know is that –while IPAF is an initiative organized by the Booker English version which comes with loads of experience and maturity, The Sheikh Zayed Book Award has been solely managed by the Cultural Authority of Abu Dhabi- stripped of any International Brand to build on such as the IPAF- Moreover, Zayed Award runs a total of NINE categories under its umbrella, each in a different sector of culture and literature which is a lot of work to do! So there is no room to compare between the two prizes, nor there is any competition taking place as some would like to think, or project.
    While in Abu Dhabi, I got the chance to meet with one of the organizers of SZBA. She is a multi-cultured, very organized and extremely helpful. She gave me a glimpse of the challenges they face in running the prize, and I think you may refer to her for more details and to get the answers you are looking for, as I’m sure you’ve been knocking on the wrong doors to get what you want. I’m not sure she can comment publicly on your blog – you can check that with her – but she will definitely help you out and guide you in the right direction. Her name is Karin and you can reach her on her email address . Good Luck.
    Heather M.

  5. Reblogged this on editoriaraba and commented:
    Grazie a Mlynxqualey per avermi inclusa nella sua rassegna di nuovi siti che si dedicano alla letteratura araba..!
    Questo reblog vale anche come invito ad andare a visitare il suo ottimo blog che è una vera miniera d’oro per chiunque conosca l’inglese e si occupi di letteratura araba e voglia saperne di più sulle novità nel campo dell’editoria, letteratura, traduzioni, autori!

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