By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘To Create a Culture and Identity’Atired but happy crowd of industry players gathered on Tuesday night (March 14) after the first full day of the 2017 London Book Fair for the fourth year of its International Excellence Awards ceremony.
Most of these awards, held in partnership with the UK’s Publishers Association, are expressly designed to recognize publishing and related activities outside of the country.
In their latest iteration on Tuesday, the most significant of these honors went, perhaps for the first time, to royalty: His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah—the third-largest of the United Arab Emirates, and the heart of the country’s cultural life—was honored with the Simon Master Chairman’s Award for his outstanding contribution to the publishing industry in the UAE.
Supported by the work of his daughter, the Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, and Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Al Qasimi has established his emirate as a powerhouse of international publishing interest and development of literature from the Arab world, a factor in UNESCO’s designation of it as the cultural capital of the Arab world in 1998.
And he is an accomplished author of some 30 works in history and memoir. His new Tale of a City was launched with great affection and respect by Bloomsbury founding CEO Nigel Newton earlier this week, on Monday (March 13), in a gala event at Whitehall’s Banqueting House, and his previous title, Under the Flag of Occupation, was similarly launched during last year’s London Book Fair.
In speaking to Tuesday’s awards audience, London Book Fair director Jacks Thomas spoke of Al Qasimi’s steadfast support of literacy and publishing. One program, for example, has put 1.6 million free books into the hands of 42,000 Emirati families, and the emirate’s translation programs and initiatives are among the most energetic, contextualized by the establishment of the Emirates Publishers Association and Writers Union.
The Sharjah International Book Fair, founded by Al Qasimi in 1981, Thomas told the crowd, now is ranked as the fourth most significant event of its kind in the world. And, as Publishing Perspectives reported earlier this month, the emirate has just opened a new initiative to form the first Reproduction rights Organization in the Arab world.
“We are proud of the ability we have to create a culture and identity,” said Al Qasimi in an eloquent acceptance speech onstage at Olympia London. “That identity must be perfectly balanced between our Islamic roots” and the imperatives of a pledge, he said, that “Shajah will continue to strengthen its international ties,” its global outreach as a people measured by “a love of culture.”
‘The Perfect Expression’
Earlier in the evening, the Arabic Literature (in English) program won the Literary Translation Initiative Award.
Author Ian McEwan joined in the evening’s proceedings to praise Luiz Schwarcz, co-founder with his wife Lilia Moritz Schwarcz of Brazil’s Companhia das Letras in 1986.
“Publishing,” Schwarcz said in a thoughtful meditation from the stage, is “the desire to pursue the perfect expression…What would happen if politics was created by literature, the pursuit of perfect expression?”
He spoke movingly of “the two points of solitude”—of the writer and of the reader—between which not even a good publisher should come.
An award for the year’s best international literary agent went to Istanbul’s Nermin Mollaoğlu, a hugely popular figure on the international publishing scene for her ebullient leadership of Turkey’s Kalem Agency, particularly in repressive times.
Another sentimental favorite was the choice of Paris’ Shakespeare & Company for the Bookstore of the Year award. And the room was full of pride for HarperCollins UK’s win of the Inclusivity in Publishing Award (a prize limited to UK entries)
Here’s the complete list of awards announced Tuesday, with Paul Blezard as host and a standing-room-only audience staying well into the evening to hear all the honorees named.
2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Awards
- The Academic and Professional Publisher Award, supported by Research Information: OECD Publishing
- The Educational Initiatives Award: Book Aid International (Africa)
- The Educational Learning Resources Award, sponsored by China Publishing & Media Journal: Lithuanian Free Market Institute (Lithuania)
- The Literary Translation Initiative Award: Arabic Literature (in English) (UAE)
- The Literary Agent Award: Nermin Mollaoglu, Kalem Agency (Turkey)
- The Literary Festival Award, sponsored by The International Literature Showcase: Bookaroo Trust, Festival of Children’s Literature (India)
- The Bookstore of the Year Award, sponsored by Gardners Books Ltd.: Shakespeare and Company (France)
- The Rights Professional Award: Hui Hou, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Publishing Co., Ltd (China)
- The Market Focus Poland Adult Trade Publisher Award: Wydawnictwo Czarne (Poland)
- The Market Focus Poland Trade Children’s and Young Adult Publisher Award: Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry (Poland)
- The Brand Licensing Award: Kaiken Publishing (Angry Birds) (Finland)
- Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Award: Publisher: SAGE Publishing (UK)
- Accessible Books Consortium International Excellence Award: Initiative: Tiflonexos (Argentina)
- Inclusivity in Publishing Award, sponsored by Equip: HarperCollins Publishers (UK)
- The London Book Fair Simon Master Chairman’s Award: His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah (UAE)
- The London Book Fair Trailblazer Awards:
- Anna Russo, Sales Executive at Hodder Education
- Caroline Tatam, Platform Marketing Executive at Cambridge University Press
- Claire O’Neill, Business Affairs Manager at Audible
- Željka Marošević, Co-Publisher at Daunt Books Publishing
- Heather McDaid, Publisher at 404 INK / Scot Lit Fest
- The Quantum Publishing Innovation Award, sponsored by Copyright Clearance Center and Ixxus: NearSt (UK)
- The Association for Publishing Education Dissertation and Project Prizes
- Best Postgraduate Dissertation: Arusa Qureshi, Edinburgh Napier University
- Best Undergraduate Dissertation: Kirsten Cozens, Oxford Brookes University
- Best Major Project: Maria Magdalena Hock, Oxford Brookes University
- Best Overall Project: Kirsten Cozens, Oxford Brookes University
- The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award: Luiz Schwarcz, Publisher, Companhia das Letras, Brazil