By Hannah Johnson | @HannahSJohnson“The future belongs to all those who love books, those who love life,” said Lebanese-born, French author Amin Maalouf after accepting the top honor at the 10th annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award ceremony on May 1st during the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.
Maalouf was named as the 2016 Cultural Personality of the Year, an award that comes with a prize of 1 million dirhams ($272,000). The jury chose Maalouf for “his achievement as a novelist, who has conveyed in French some key moments in the history of Arab and other Eastern peoples to the entire world.” His books have been translated into 40 languages, and his work is widely known around the world.
Born in Lebanon in 1949, Maalouf left for France at the start of the Lebanese civil war in the ’70s. He writes in French, and his novel Le rocher de Tanios (The Rock of Tanios) won the Prix Goncourt in 1993. His work has also been nominated for the Man Booker and the IMPAC Dublin awards. In 2011, Maalouf became the fourth naturalized French citizen to be voted into the elite Académie Française.
Maalouf and the other award winners received their medals at the ceremony from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
In addition to Maalouf, six writers and scholars across several categories also received awards of 750,000 dirhams ($204,000) each:
Contribution to the Development of Nations Award: Jamal Snad Al-Suwaidi (UAE) for his study, Al-Sarab (The Mirage), which analyzes the emergence of politicized religious groups in the Arab World.
Literature Award: Ibrahim Abdelmeguid (Egypt) for his memoir, Ma Wara’a al-Kitaba (Beyond Writing), about the author’s experiences — political, social and cultural — that informed many of his novels.
Literary and Art Criticism Award: Said Yaktine (Morocco) for his study, Al-Fikr al-Adabi al-‘Arabi (Arabic Literary Thought), which examines contemporary criticism in Arabic.
Translation Award: Keyan Yahya (Iraq) for his translation of The Meaning of Meaning by Ogden and Richards. This is the first translation of this book into Arabic more than 90 years after its publication in English.
Arab Culture in Other Languages: Roshdi Rashed (Egypt) for his study, Angles et Grandeur, which traces mathematical discussions throughout Greek and Arabic history.
Publishing and Technology Award: Publishing house Dar Al-Saqi, for their wide range of serious books across philosophy, science and art.
Among the most well-funded book awards in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is presented each year at a special ceremony that coincides with the Abu Dhabi Book Fair. The Award is named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1971 to 2004.
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award honors “outstanding writers, intellectuals, and publishers, as well as young talent whose writing and translation in humanities objectively enriches Arab intellectual, cultural, literary and social life.”
In 2016, the jury made their selections from over 1,100 nominations, which came from 33 countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, UK, France and Holland.