Yesterday, organizers of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) announced the shortlisted entries in its three categories: literature, emerging author, and children’s literature.
Each shortlist featured three titles, a combination of acclaimed and lesser-known authors.
Selected from a longlist of 15 entries, the literature shortlist was made up of the acclaimed غربة المنازل (Strangers at Home) by Egyptian author Ezzat Elkamhawy; Moroccan writer Said Bengrad’s وتحملني حيرتي وظنوني. سيرة التكوين (A Story of Genesis: Thoughts and Confusion Carry Me); and Emirati author Maisoon Saqer’s مقهى ريش عين على مصر (Cafe Riche: Eye on Egypt).
Strangers at Home follows Elkamhawy’s غرفة المسافرين (The Passengers’ Hall), a nonfiction work about journeys, taking us both through the author’s experience of travels and his reflections on travel literature, which was shortlisted for the SZBA last year. Last year’s award went to Iman Mersal’s (في أثر عنايات الزيات) In the Footsteps of Enayat al-Zayyat. Al-Fanar’s Mona Abu Al-Nasr and Sayyid Mahmoud, who chose the book as one of their top reads of 2021, wrote:
In a world besieged by Covid-19, Ezzat El-Kamhawi’s new novel places its main characters in a fictional world dominated by isolation and obsessions, where people are forced to surrender to a crushing flood of memories. The novel brings together residents of a multi-story building, including a musician, historian, and entomologist, as well as the concierge and his wife. Alongside this fictional world, the novel reflects the turmoil that social media creates during the long hours of curfew.
Maisoon Saqer’s 654-page Cafe Riche: Eye on Egypt follows the history of one of Egypt’s most famous cafes and gathering places for writers and thinkers in the twentieth century, focusing on the role of coffeeshops in Egypt’s recent development. Abu Al-Nasr and Mahmoud also chose this book as one of their top reads of 2021, and wrote:
This book follows Cairo’s urban development, from the late nineteenth century to the present day, through the story of the famous Cafe Riche in downtown Cairo. A huge volume of 654 pages, the book is filled with dozens of photos and documents showing modern Cairo. The author, Maysoon Saqr, is an Emirati poet, painter, novelist and researcher, and a longtime resident of Cairo. She portrays downtown Cairo as a cultural, political, economic and social centre and an ethnic and cultural melting pot.
Bengrad’s is a philosophical autobiography.
The shortlisted works in the “emerging author” category were chosen from a longlist of 14, and focus on scholarly works: “الكائن البلاغي اللغة والعقل والاستطاعة في كتاب البيان والتبيين” (Rhetorical Object: Language, Reason, and Ability in the Book ‘Al-Bayan wal-Tabyeen’) by Moroccan author Mustafa Rajwan; “البداوة في الشّعر العربي القديم” (Bedouinism in Ancient Arabic Poetry) by Tunisian author Mohamed Al-Maztouri (Tunisia); and “الحكاية الشعبية السعودية المكتوبة بالفصحى: دراسة في المتعاليات النصية” (Saudi Folk Tales Written in Fus’ha: A Study of Textual Transcendence) by Saudi author Manal Salem Al-Qathami.
In the children’s literature category, the three shortlisted books — chosen from a longlist of ten — are Syrian author Bayan Al-Safadi’s “شمس تضحك” (A Laughing Sun); acclaimed and multi-award-winning Syrian author Maria Daadoush’s “لغز الكرة الزجاجية” (The Mystery of the Glass Ball); and Moroccan author Raja Mellah’s “موعدي مع النور” (My Appointment with the Light).
According to organizers, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award will announce the shortlists of its other categories over the coming weeks.