Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature Withheld Again This Year

For the second year in a row, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) judges have declined to grant a literature prize, “as this year’s nominations…did not meet the Award’s standards and criteria for winning”:

szba1This year’s SZBA — now in its seventh cycle — was structured differently, with only creative works eligible for the literature prize. In previous years, the “literature” prize was open both to creative works and criticism.

This year’s “Literary and Art Criticism” prize was awarded: It went to ‘Al Takhayol Al Tarikhi’ (Historic Visualization) by Iraqi author Abdullah Ibrahim.

Not so for the embattled literature prize, which was stripped in 2010 after accusations of plagiarism and withheld last year for the same ostensible reason. This year, it was withheld again, now along with the children’s literature prize. That means there are no creative works celebrated by the 2013 SZBA.

This year’s literary longlist was much more varied than in the past, including seven novels or short-story collections and seven collections of poetry.

Winner of the Art & Lit Crit category.
Winner of the Art & Lit Crit category.

There were a number of notable names on the “novel and short stories” section of the SZBA longlist, including deceased Egyptian author Mohamed al-Bisatie for his 2011 novel And Their Bed is Green and popular Algerian novelist Ahlam Mosteghanemi  for her 2012 novel Black Suits You.

Others on the longlist for novels or short stories include Emirati author Ali Abu al-Reesh for his 2010 novel Running from a Lion (excerpt trans. Robin Moger), Iraqi-German author Burhan Shawi for his 2012 novel Baghdad Morgue, and three Moroccans: Abdallah bin Arafa for his novel Ibn al-Khatib in Rawdat Taha, Zohra Ramij for her novel Azzuza, and Latifa Labsir for her 2012 short-story collection An Embrace.

On the poetry side of the longlist, the seven titles also included acclaimed works, including Ibrahim Nasrallah‘s Ray of Light. There was also Lebanese poet Mohammed Ali Shams el-Din‘s The Bird Sleeps in the Green Trees (2012), Iraqi poet Hashem Sahfiq‘s Embroidery with Cherries (2010), Egyptian poet Farouk Shousha‘s Travelling to the Source of the River (2012), Tunisian poet Munsif al-Wahaby‘s Diwan al-Wahaiby (2010), and Kuwaiti poet Saadia Mufarreh‘s How Lonely We Are, Suzan (2012).

One year of not awarding the prize (like the US Pulitzer) is annoying; two years is silly: If this prize is to continue, the judging system clearly needs an overhaul.

Other SZBA awards:

The ‘Arab Culture in Non-Arabic Languages’ award went to Marina Warner’s worthy Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights.

The winners will be celebrated on April 28, 2013, near the end of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.