Today, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award announced the winners of its twelfth session:
Syrian novelist Khalil Sweileh won the top literature prize for his novel Ikhtibar al-Nadam, or Remorse Test. Sweileh won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2009, for his Writing Love, which was translated by Alexa Firat.
Writing Love was Sweileh’s fourth novel. He published his first in 2004, Express Mail, and it was followed by Do Not Blame Me (2006) and Zuhur, Sara, and Nariman (2008). He was born in Hasaka, Syria, and graduated from Damascus University in 1986 with a degree in literature, after which he worked as a journalist for the Syrian Tishrin Cultural Supplement and the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which has translated some of his literary criticism into English.
About Remorse Test, the judges said: “The novel portrays an inward view of the Syrian Civil War tragedy; the author takes the reader on a trip around Damascus, trudging down the memory lanes and presenting the psychological conflicts amid the shattered reality of place and society – marking an important addition to the Syrian Literature, with a unique use of narrative tools and vocabulary construction.”
Meanwhile, this year’s young author prize to Egyptian author Ahmad al-Qarmalawi for his Amtar Sayfiyah, or Summer Rains, and the children’s literature prize went to Emirati author Hessa al-Muhairi for her al-Dinoaraf, which seems to be The Dinosoraf.
About Dinosoraf, the judges said: “The story is set in the Animal Kingdom, where a dinosaur is out on a mission to find his parallel among the rest of animals. Throughout his journey, he gets to know the differences between the animals, which finally lead him to find his connection with the giraffe, hence becoming the “Dinoraf”, in a unique portrayal of the contemporary case of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance of cultural differences within the global society. The story is written in an aesthetic language that is beautiful, artistic & carefully crafted.”
And about Summer Rains: “The novel tackles the interrelations between the music and the soul, and the sublimity of the spirit versus covetousness. The work showed an extensive knowledge in music that creates a tangible setting of melodic notes transcending to that of the Sufism station (Maqaam).”
Other prizes awarded included Translation (Néji Elounelli), Literary and Art Criticism (Mohammad Mishbal), Arab Culture in Other Languages (Dag Nikolaus Hasse), and Publishing and Technology (Dar al-Tanweer). The SZBA carries a cash prize of 750,000 dirhams for each winner, or about $200,000.