This year, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) found a worthy literary entry — presenting its literature award to Egyptian novelist Abdel Rasheed Mahmoudi’s After Coffee:
The award to Mahmoudi’s novel, which is set in Ismailia and Vienna in the 1940s, comes after two years of “no award,” when the final set of SZBA judges decided that none on on the shortlist met their criteria.
According to Abu Dhabi Book Fair head Juma Abdullah Al Qubaisi, who announced the winners yesterday, Mahmoudi’s book “is really unique compared to the other books [submitted]. The novel is a mixture of taking this style of the classical and the traditional and, in addition to this, recording and documenting his life from childhood.”
The other three titles on the four-book shortlist were:
The Stranger of the River by Jordanian-Palestinian author Jamal Naji, published by Al Dar Al Arabiyyah Lil Oloum 2012. Naji’s When the Wolves Grow Old was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in 2010. He began writing in 1975, and his first novel, The Road to Balharith, was published in 1981. His other novels include: Time, The Remnants of the Last Storms, Life on the Edge of Death, The Night of the Feathers, What Happened Thursday and The Target.
Butterflies for Buddha’s Smile by Lebanese poet Shawqi Bazi’ (published by Dar Al Adab 2013). A translation of Bazi”s “They Claimed it Was a Morning” can be found on the Angry Arab website. He has published 11 poetry collections, among them The Rose of Sorrow, Epic of Dust, Lonesome and Early Desires.
Diwan of Marine Fishing, by Tunisian poet Munsef Al Wahaybi (published by Dar Afaq 2013).
Mahmoudi, like winners in seven other categories, is set to receive 750K dirhams. The winner in the ninth category, million-dirham “Cultural Personality of the Year Award” — which last year went to Egypt’s Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar — is yet to be announced.
Jawdat Fakhreddine’s collection of children’s poetry won the award for children’s literature. The other two books on the children’s-book shortlist were:
A Miracle in the Desert, by Egyptian writer Yacoub Al Sharooni (published by Dar Nahdet Misr 2013)
Raghda’s Hat, by Jordanian writer Taghreed Al Najjar (published by Al Salwa Publications 2012). Al Najjar is also the author of Sitt al-Kol, shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature, as well as many other books.
The winners will receive their awards at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which is set for April 30 through May 5.