The Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020: Shortlists and a London Book Fair Event

In News by Porter Anderson

As it rolls out shortlists for 2020, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award readies a special panel at London Book Fair on the impact of literature prizes  on translation in world publishing.

The Abu Dhabi stand at the 2019 London Book Fair. Image: Porter Anderson

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

Hahn Leads Zayed Award Session at London Book Fair
Amid its record increase in submissions for this year’s prize cycle, the United Arab Emirates’ Sheikh Zayed Book Award this week is announcing shortlists along with details of its plan to present a timely program at London Book Fair (March 10 to 12).

Winners of the 14th edition of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award will be honored on April 16, in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

And at 1: 30 p.m. on the fair’s opening day, March 10, in the trade show’s English PEN Salon, Sheikh Zayed Book Award: The Positive Impact of Prizes on Translation will look not only at the potential of literary prize programs to raise the visibility of international writing but also at effects such awards can have on translators, authors, and publishers.

Daniel Hahn

The session—hosed by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award Translation Fund—will be moderated by Daniel Hahn, the UK-based translator, well known to Publishing Perspectives readers not only for his work as an author and translator but also as the creator of the UK’s TA First Translation Prize that awards both the translator and the editor of a debut translation effort.

That award, now in its second year, just went to translator Morgan Giles and editor Saba Ahmed for the English translation from Japanese of Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (Tilted Axis Press).

Joining Hahn on the program at Olympia London are:

Sawaad Hussain

Sawaad Hussain, an Arabic-to-English translator of literary fiction, who was co-editor of the Arabic-English portion of the Oxford Arabic Dictionary (2014).

Her upcoming translations include a Palestinian resistance classic by Sahar Khalifeh for Seagull Books.

Hussain holds a master’s degree in modern Arabic literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Ghassan Fergiani

Ghassan Fergiani, managing director at Darf Publishers, a London-based imprint dedicated to publishing Arabic fiction and books about Libya and the wider Middle East in English translation.

Gergiani is the owner of West End Lane Books in Hampstead, London, and Darf Publishers received a Sheikh Zayed translation grant for the translation of Hatless, winner of the Children’s Literature Award in 2017, written by Lateefa Buti and translated into English by Nancy Roberts, who also joins the panel.

Samantha Schnee

Samantha Schnee is the founding editor of Words Without Borders, which was co-founded with Alane Salierno Mason and Dedi Felman. Publishing Perspectives readers are familiar with Words Without Borders, particularly through its monthly magazine promoting curated works in translation to English.

Schnee serves as secretary of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). She also chairs PEN America’s Heim Translation Grants jury and is a trustee of English PEN.

The opening-day session at London Book Fair is scheduled to run for 45 minutes, to 2:15 p.m.

Newly Released Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlists

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, with a purse of 750,000 UAE dirhams (US$204,192) in each of the eight book categories, the Sheikh Zayed program additionally offers 1 million dirhams (US$272,257) to the winner of its Cultural Personality of the Year honor. Thus, it’s the richest prize program in Arabic literature awards, and in several categories, publishers of its winners are granted translation and marketing funding to help expand the presence of Arabic work in world markets.

In every case, a winner is also given a gold medal with the award program’s logo and a certificate of merit.

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

Under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, secretary-general of the award program, each of the program’s nine committees comprises three to five jurors who have been chosen by the program’s scientific committee to make their categorized selections. The jurors are anonymous, a condition imposed to maintain their independence: they’re free to make the decisions they think are best.

Bin Tamim earlier this month led meetings of the scientific committee to review and examine the reports of the jurors’ panels on shortlisted nominees. Having concluded those reviews and meetings, the committee has put forward its shortlists for these eight of the program’s nine categories:

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

And this week, organizers of the program have begun releasing news of those approved shortlists.

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Literature

In this category, the program has approved two novels and one work of poetry.


  • Arwah Sakhrat Al Asal (Souls of Honey Rocks) by Mamdouh Azzam of Syria (Mamdouh Adwan Publishing and Distribution House with Sard Publishing, 2018)
  • Ma’wa Al Gheyab (Shelter of Absence) by Mansoura Ezzedine of Egypt (Mamdouh Adwan Publishing and Distribution House with Sard Publishing, 2018)


  • Belkas ma Qabl Al Akheera (The Penultimate Cup) by Moncef Al-Wahaibi of Tunisia (Meskeliani Publishing and Distribution, 2019)

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Young Authors

In this category, the program has approved one novel and two studies:

  • Kol Al Ashya’a (All Things) by the Kuwaiti author Bothayna Al-Essa (Arab Scientific Publishers, Inc., 2017)
  • ilm Al Kalam Al Islami fi Derasat al Mustashrikeen Al Alman (Islamic Theology in the Studies of German Orientalists) by the Iraqi writer Hayder Qasim (Al Rawafed Culture and Nadim Edition, 2018)
  • Al Muhawara fi Adb Abi Hayyan al-Tawhidi: Derasah fi Khasaes al Tafa’ol Al Tawasoli, Al Adab AlMajlisi fe Mudwenat AlTawhidi (Dialogue in the Literature of Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi: A Study in the Characteristics of Interactive Communication) by the Saudi author Manal Saleh M. Al-Mohimeed (Dar Kunouz Al Ma’refa Publishers, 2019)

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Children’s Literature

  • Nuzhati Al Ajeeba Ma’ Al Am Salem (My Wondrous Picnic with Uncle Salem) by Emirati writer Nadia AlNajjar (Dar Al Saqi Publishing, Beirut, 2019)
  • Al Fatat Al Lialakia (The Lilac Girl) by the Palestinian writer Ibtisam Barakat (Tamer Institute for Community Education, 2019)
  • Saqi Almaa (The Water Provider) by the Emirati writer Maryam Saqer Al Qasimi (Al Hudhud Publishing and Distribution, 2019)

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Arab Culture in Other Languages

  • Warum es kein islamisches Mittelalter gab: Das Erbe der Antike und der Orient (Why There Was No Islamic Middle Ages: The Legacy of Antiquity and the Orient) by Thomas Bauer (CH Beck Verlag, Munich, 2018)
  • 1001 Buch: Die Literaturen Des Orients (1001 Book: The Literatures of the Orient) by Stefan Weidner (Edition Converso, 2019)
  • Croire au Maghreb médiéval: La sainteté en question, XIVe-XVe siècle (Holiness and Eschatology in the Maghreb in the 14th and 15th Centuries) by Nelly Amri (Les Editions du Cerf, 2019)
  • The Thousand and One Nights and 20th Century Fiction: Intertextual Readings by Richard van Leeuwen (Brill Publishers, 2018)
  • Sufi Network. Le confraternite islamiche tra globalizzazione e tradizione (Sufi Network: Islamic Brotherhoods Between Globalization and Tradition) by Francesco Alfonso Leccese (Editoriale Jouvence, 2017)

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Translation

  • Al Manteqa Al Mo’atemah: Al Tareekh Al Seri Lelharb Alsebraniya (The Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War) by Fred Kaplan, translated by Loay Abdel Mageed, Egypt (National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature in Kuwait, 2019)
  • Al-Insan Al-Romantiqi (L’Homme Romantique) by Georges Gusdorf, translated by Mohamed Ait Mihoub from Tunisia (Dracher Sinatra/ Tunis Institute for Translation, 2018)
  • Al Shokouk Ala Galen (Abū Bakr al-Rāzī Doutes sur Galien) by Abu Bakr Al-Razi, translated by Pauline Koetschet from France (Walter de Gruyter , Berlin, 2019)

Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 Shortlist: Publication and Technology

Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina, left, and Paris’ L’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales

  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria
  • L’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris
  • Banipal Magazine. London

A Note on London Book Fair and the Coronavirus

In all our material of the 2020 London Book Fair, we’re taking care to be cognizant of the situation in the UK and elsewhere relative to the coronavirus COVID-19, particularly following the virus-triggered postponement of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

While London’s fair organizers at this writing say they expect to go forward with the trade show, they’re closely monitoring the situation. Those who plan to attend may find it useful to see the fair’s coronavirus update page for information.

This morning, (February 27), BBC News reports that two new positive cases of the virus have been confirmed in England and have been transferred to National Health Service infection centers in London and Liverpool. “The virus was passed on while they were in Italy and Tenerife,” the report says, citing England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

Analysis from BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle indicates that as yet human-to-human transmission has not been detected in the UK. More than 7,000 people have been tested, 15 cases have been established. Of those 15, eight now have been discharged from hospital.

Publishing Perspectives continues to monitor the coronavirus spread during the publishing industry’s spring travel season, as UK ministers report to the BBC that they do expect more cases to emerge.

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. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.