Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Receives 1,900 Nominations from 49 Countries

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The Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Zayed Book Award announces a record-breaking number of submissions from nearly 50 countries its 14th prize year.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award held a seminar at the 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse, launching the first titles supported by the program’s Translation Fund Initiative. Image: Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Exceptional Works’ and ‘Prominent Authors’
In a remarkable jump over last year’s level of nominations, officials of the US$1.9 million Sheikh Zayed Book Award program in Abu Dhabi has announced today (November 7) that a total 1,900 nominations have been submitted for the 2020 award cycle. Last year’s level was 1,500 nominations, and that was a record at the time.

The number of countries from which the nominations have been made has increased, as well. Last year’s program saw submission from 35 nations, while this year’s submissions for the program’s 14th cycle have come from 49 nations–22 of them Arab countries. The nominations are lodged, of course, in the nine categories of the program’s competition:

  • Literature (including poetry, short stories, novels, biographies, playscripts, and more)
  • Children’s Literature (including young adult, or YA, titles)
  • Young Author
  • Literary and Art Criticism
  • Arabic Culture in Other Languages
  • Publishing and Technology
  • Translation (either to or from Arabic)
  • Contribution to the Development of Nations
  • Cultural Personality of the Year

As the submission period closed, the Zayed reading panel committee, led by the award’s secretary general Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, convened for four days of examination and consideration in preparation for the release of the 2020 longlists—anticipated later this month. (Our interview with Bin Tamim relative to his appearance at the International Publishers Association’s (IPA) Middle East conference, speaking on “Bringing the Voice of Arab Writers, Publishers, and Content Creators to the World” is here.)

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim at the IPA Middle East Seminar in Amman. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

According to Bin Tamim, the categories receiving the most submissions are the Young Author with 498 nominations and Literature with 438. This, of course, is heartening news, particularly in its suggestion that more young talent is moving into the Arabic language writer corps.

Bin Tamim, in a prepared comment for the news about the record-breaking submissions, says, “We have received exceptional works from prominent authors and publishing houses, cultural centers and universities.

“The highest number of Arab-nation nominations came from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, UAE, Morocco and Syria.” Nominations from countries beyond the Arab world, he tells us, came primarily from the UK, Germany, USA, France, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, and Spain, respectively.”

“Such an impressive improvement in the volume of participation,” Bin Tamim says, “reaffirms the award’s resounding success achieved year-on-year. The award was first launched to honor our founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his leading role played to build a united nation.

‘The Dinoraf’ in its original Arabic publication

“It also underscores the cultural status of the United Arab Emirates, being a global hub for culture makers, intellectuals, creators, publishers, and youth.”

Members of the reading panel committee working with Bin Tamim to sort through the unprecedented influx of submissions include Khalil Al Shaikh, a Jordanian member of the award’s Scientific Committee; Samer Abu Hawash, another Scientific Committee  Palestine; and Ali Al-Kaabi from the UAE.

Once the longlists are announced, jurors will gauge the eligible entries, as organizers say, “taking into account knowledge specialization, commitment to a clear analysis and composition, aesthetics of language and style, information sufficiency, comprehensiveness, relevance, reliability of sources and references, academic integrity in quoting and documentation, originality, and novelty in the subject matter.”

And certainly some of the widening scope of submissions may be occurring thanks to the prize’s outreach efforts in programming.

For example, at last month’s Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award produced a panel titled “Trends in Children’s Literature: Arabic and German Voices” on the popular issue-driven Weltempfang Stage.

The original Arabic publication of ‘The Madmen of Bethlehem’

And in the International Hall 5.1, the Zayed program held a seminar on Frankfurt Friday (October 18) to launch the first translations of its winning titles, The Dinoraf by the Emirati author Hessa Al Mehairi, who won the 2018 Children’s Literature prize, and The Madmen of Bethlehem by the Palestinian novelist Osama Alaysa, translated into Ukrainian through a collaborative arrangement with Kiev publisher Anetta Antonenko.

The event, moderated by publisher Marco Zapparoli of Marcos y Marcos—which has translated Al Mehairi’s The Dinoraf into Italian, French, and English—drew a crowd to the spacious Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism stand, a testament to the rising interest in the Zayed program’s Translation Fund Initiative.

The grant program, created in 2018, covers up to US$10,000 in translation costs per title, with additional funding available for marketing and promotion. Applications are accepted year-’round.

Emirati author of ‘The Dinoraf’ Hessa Al Mehairi is interviewed by the book’s Italian, French, and English translation publisher Marco Zapparoli at the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Translation Fund Initiative seminar at Frankfurter Buchmesse 2019. Image: Porter Anderson


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on Arabic literature is here, more on translation is here, and more on children’s books is here.

More information on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and its activities at Frankfurt last month is in our Show Dailies from the fair. Be sure to read our Publishing Perspectives Show Dailies from the 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse. You can download free copies of them all in PDF here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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