Sheikh Zayed Book Award Improves Lit-Prize Situation

Finally, in the seventh cycle of its award (2012-2013), the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA)’s literature prize is open to “no more than creative literary works.”

Previously, the “literature prize” bucket had included both literature and the criticism thereof. How the two could be judged against one another was anyone’s guess. (By what scale would one balance, for instance, Edward Said’s The World, the Text, and the Critic vs. Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club?) Now, “The revamped category will be open to literary text[s] such as poetry, short stories, travel books and novels excluding woks of literary criticism.”

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, SZBA’s secretary general, said in a prepared release: “It has become fundamental to separate between creative literary works and literary criticism [non-literary] since the quality and volume of works in both branches is increasing consistently.”

It’s a bit of an odd statement, since the literature prize wasn’t handed out this year, ostensibly because nothing on the shortlist met the judges’ criteria. But never ye mind that.

Literary criticsm has been moved into the “literary and art criticsm” bucket, which certainly makes more apples-to-apples sense.

The prize still has other problems (it was withdrawn in 2010 after allegations of plagiarism [because of material plagiarized, apparently, from one of the judge’s books?], the inaccessibility of the judges, the inclarity of their standards), but this seems to be a step in the right direction.

If you care to submit your work for the award, you can do so until September 30, 2012.