Sheikh Zayed Book Award: Funding for Nine Translations Into Five Languages

In News by Porter Anderson

Nine newly announced translations of supported by the UAE’s Sheikh Zayed Book Award have taken six Arabic books into five languages.

The stage for the 2016 Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners’ ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Image: Sheikh Zayed Book Award

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

Three Books Have Two Translations Each
Among announcements made during our winter holiday break in publishing, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre has announced nine new translations from Arabic, published with support of the Zayed program’s translation grants.

In a first, one of the languages into which a book in the award’s translation grant program has been translated is Greek. There are four other languages in play, as well: English, French, Italian, and Ukrainian.

And with the announcement of these translations, the grant program’s track record rises to 24 titles published with funding from the Zayed Award since the inception of this grant effort in 2018.

The Zayed program’s translation grant offers up to US$19,000 in financial support for international publishers to raise the visibility of Arabic literature in many parts of the world by translating literary works and children’s books that have won or have been shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

As it turns out, three books have had two translations each in this year supported publications. Three other titles had one translation each.

The release of the news of these new publications was made on December 18 to coincide with the UNESCO World Arabic Language Day program, which recognizes the date in 1973 on which the United Nations’ General Assembly adopted Arabic as the world body’s sixth official language. As many of our readers know, Arabic is estimated to be used by close to 450 million people, and the UNESCO celebration of the language points to Arabic as a driver of international culture.

Audrey Azoulay

In her statement recognizing World Arabic Language Day, UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said, “On this 10th World Arabic Language Day, UNESCO would like to honor and salute the nearly 450 million people who keep alive an extraordinary linguistic and cultural heritage, a symbol of diversity and cultural inspiration.”

And as some of the UNESCO material on its observation of World Arabic Language Day, the agency writes, “In the diversity of its forms, classic or dialectal, from oral expression to poetic calligraphy, the Arabic language has given rise to a fascinating aesthetic in fields as varied as architecture, poetry, philosophy, and song.”

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

The Sheik Zayed Book Award’s secretary-general, Dr. Ali Bin Tamim—who is also chair of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center—is quoted on the news of the books receiving translation support, saying, “The translation grant is an important addition to the global literary scene, and a cultural bridge that connects our region with the world.

“The initiative supports our efforts to promote contemporary Arabic literature and establish academic discussion spaces that allow for the exchange of visions and ideas. The grant is in line with our vision and objectives at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, and aims to reach out to new cultures looking to know more about Arab civilization.

Lucia Guarano

“We look forward in the coming years to translating more books in order to promote Arabic literature globally and facilitate dialogue between civilizations.”

Lucia Guarano, director of foreign copyrights at Italy’s Round Robin Editrice—one of the publishers participating in the program—is quoted, saying, “The Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s translation grant is an essential tool for connecting cultures and supporting Arab authors in Italy and Europe.

Amtar Sayfiya (Summer Rains), which was translated into Italian under the initiative, provides deep insight into Arab society and sheds light on its customs, traditions, and modern civilization.

“It’s a beautiful novel for all generations and closely associated with music and art.

And Constantinos Malousaris, the director of Strange Days Books, a cooperative publishing organization in the city of Rethymno on Crete, says, “Arabic literature opens the doors to understanding Arab society and culture–one of the most significant historical cultural pillars of the world.

Al Fatat al-Laylakiya (The Lilac Girl), the children’s story translated into Greek with the support of this initiative, carries in it a message that strives to develop children’s imagination, introducing them to the world of color and promoting art. This reflects the spirit of Arabic literature and its role in human development.”

Children’s Titles Published with Zayed Translation Support

This year, five children’s works are among the overall nine titles honored with the Zayed Award program’s provision of translation publication.

  • Al Fatat al-Laylakiya (The Lilac Girl) is the translation mentioned as a first for the Zayed grants, translated into Greek by Bashar Abbas in association with Strange Days Books. It’s by Ibtisam Barakat of Palestine, winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Children’s Literature category in 2020.
  • Rihlat Fannan (An Artist’s Journey) is translated into English by Noha GoraniHomad, in association with Bookland Press. The book is by Mizouni Bannani from Tunisia and was the winner in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Children’s Literature category in 2021.
  • Rihlat Fannan (An Artist’s Journey) also has been translated into French by Leila Taher, again with Bookland Press.
  • Al Fata al-lathi Absara Lawn al-Hawa (The Boy Who Saw the Color of the Air) is another title translated into English by Noha GoraniHomad, in association with Bookland Press. The book is by Abdo Wazen of Lebanon, who won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Children’s Literature category in 2012.
  • And Al Fata al-lathi Absara Lawn al-Hawa (The Boy Who Saw the Color of the Air) has also been translated to Ukrainian by Oksana Prokhorovych, in collaboration with Anetta Antonenko Publishers.
Literary Works Published with Zayed Translation Support
  • Ma Taraktu Khalfi (Things I Left Behind) is the first shortlisted title to be translated under the Zayed Award’s translation grant program. It has been translated into English by Nancy Roberts, in association with the London-based Banipal Publishing. The book is by Shatha Mustafa of Palestine and was shortlisted in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Young Author category in 2021.
  • Baad al-Qawha (After Coffee) has been translated to Ukrainian by Bohdan Horvat, in collaboration with Anetta Antonenko Publishers. It’s by Abdul Rasheed Mahmoudi from Egypt, winner of the Zayed Award’s Literature category in 2014.
  • Amtar Sayfiya (Summer Rains) translated to Italian by Amira Kelany, in association with Rome’s Round Robin Editrice. The book is by Ahmed Al-Qarmalawi of Egypt, winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Young Author category in 2018.
  • And Amtar Sayfiya (Summer Rains) has also been translated to Ukrainian by Serhii Rybalkin, in in association with Anetta Antonenko Publishers.  

Image: Sheikh Zayed Book Award

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center and 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.