Iraqi author Ali Jaafar Alallaq has won the 2023 Sheikh Zayed Book Award, in the Literature category, for his 2022 memoir “إلى أين أيتها القصيدة؟ سيرة ذاتية” (Whereto, O Poem? An Autobiography).
In a prepared release, organizers write:
The book is a significant addition to the genre, particularly due to its focus on Alallaq’s poetic experience. Through the book, readers can gain insight into the relationship between the poet and his work, as well as the challenges of the Iraqi and Arab cultural landscape for over 50 years. The author presents a modernist perspective that is broad-minded. The language of the book is stylistically diverse, ranging from everyday language to poetic prose. The author skilfully employs biographical techniques, incorporating Alallaq’s own poems and those of other poets to create a distinct and exceptional work.
The other two works on the Literature shortlists were Egyptian author and scholar Reem Bassiouney’s 2022 novel “القطائع – ثلاثية ابن طولون” (Al-Qata’i: Ibn Tulun’s Trilogy) and Lebanese author Alawiya Sobh’s 2022 novel “افرح يا قلبي” (Rejoice, My Heart).
The Young Author award, meanwhile, went to Algerian author Said Khatibi for his novel, “نهاية الصحراء” (The End of the Desert), published by Hachette Antoine/Nofal in 2022.
According to organizers:
The novel exhibits imaginative characteristics, stylistic originality, and narrative proficiency in the genre of detective literature. It skilfully arranges events and utilises storytelling techniques, making it a noteworthy addition to the scarce historical detective novels in modern Arabic literature that cater to younger readers and encompass various societal settings. The text is distinguished by its eloquence and seamless flow, keeping the reader engaged without pause or tedium.
The other two books shortlisted for the Young Author award were Iraqi author Shahd Alrawi’s 2020 novel “فوق جسر الجمهورية” (Over the Republic Bridge) and Egyptian author Ahmad Lutfi’s 2022 novel “الوحل والنجوم” (Dirt and Stars).
There were several other awards: The prize for “Arab Culture in Other Languages” went to French author Mathieu Tillier win for his L’invention du cadi: La justice des musulmans, des juifs et des chrétiens aux premiers siècles de l’Islam (The Invention of the Cadi: Justice among Muslims, Jews, and Christians during the First Centuries of Islam), which came out in 2017. Tunisian author Chokri Al Saadi won the Translation category for his translation of Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts by John R. Searle. In the Art and Literary Criticism category, Tunisian scholar Dr. Jalila Al Tritar from Tunisia won for her ‘مرائي النّساء: دراسات في كتابات الذّات النّسائيّة العربيّة’ (‘Women Views: Studies on Arab Women Self Writings’). In the Publishing and Technology category, the winner was Egyptian publishing house Dar El Ain.
The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award was not yet announced.
The Cultural Personality of the Year winner wins a one million AED prize, while winners of other categories each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit, and a prize of 750,000 AED.
Organizers clarified that usually the translation “grant is for the Literature and Children’s categories, yes. As there are no shortlisted or winning titles for the children’s category this time, the grant will be offered for the 2023 Young Author category instead.”