Ali Jaafar Alallaq among winners of Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2023

Poets, social commentators and linguistic experts among those honoured

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - The Sheikh Zayed Book Awards held at Manarat, Saadiyat on April 30, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)
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Iraqi poet Ali Jaafar Alallaq has been named winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s Literature category. He was awarded for his autobiography Ila Ayn Ayyathouha Al Kaseedah (Whereto, O Poem?).

Alallaq has been at the forefront of the Iraqi and Arab literary scene for half a century. His book shares his insights on the changes and challenges of the regional cultural landscape, while delving into his experiences in cultivating his craft as a poet.

Stylistically, Ila Ayn Ayyathouha Al Kaseedah is eclectic. The book, released by Alaan Publishing last year, prances between colloquial language and poetic prose while deftly incorporating Alallaq’s poetry as well as from other writers.

The Sheikh Zayed Award revealed the list of winners on Tuesday. An annual prize organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, a part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, the competition recorded its highest number of entries this year. More than 3,000 submissions were considered from 60 countries with works competing across nine categories.

In the Arab Culture in Other Languages category, French author Mathieu Tillier won for his book L'invention du cadi: La justice des musulmans, des juifs et des chretiens aux premiers siecles de l’Islam (The Invention of the Cadi: Justice among Muslims, Jews, and Christians during the First Centuries of Islam), published by Editions de la Sorbonne in 2017.

The book explores the evolution of the judicial system in the early Islamic period. Utilising fresh sources and an innovative comparative approach, it examines the development of judicial procedures, shedding light on various critical questions, such as the processes involved in filing complaints and cases, their legal progression and the individuals responsible for delivering final judgments.

The book includes a comprehensive collection of narratives detailing the history of Egypt and Palestine during the Umayyad era, which offer invaluable contemporary insights into historical events. The book draws from an abundance of Arabic, Greek, Syriac and Coptic sources.

In the Young Author category, Said Khatibi from Algeria won for his novel Nehayat Al Sahra’a (The End of the Desert), issued by Hachette Antoine/Nofal last year.

The novel takes an innovative spin on the genre of detective literature. It mixes storytelling techniques in a way that caters to younger audiences. The text, with its seamless flow, aims to keep the reader engaged without pause or tedium.

Tunisian author Chokri Al Saadi won the Translation category for Al-Ibara wa-al-Mi’na: Dirasat fi Nathariyat al-A’amal al-Lughawiya.

The work was translated from the English book Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts by John R Searle. It was issued by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs — Tunisian Institute for Translation in 2021. The work was hailed by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award as a scientific merit and was praised for effectively conveying the specialised terminology in the areas of linguistics and philosophy, which made the original book a challenging translation.

The book was praised as an important addition to the field of linguistics, presenting an opportunity for Arabic language specialists to familiarise themselves with advancements.

In the Art and Literary Criticism category, Jalila Al Tritar from Tunisia won for her book Mara’i an-Nisaa: Dirasat fi Kitabat al-That an-Nisaa’iya al-Aarabiya (Women Views: Studies on Arab Women Self Writings), published by La Maison Tunisienne Du Livre in 2021.

The research is regarded as a significant contribution to the study of women’s biographies. It explores Arab female innovators and how their identities were reflected within the Arab society’s context. Furthermore, it expands the scope of research in exploring women’s creative expression, highlighting their contributions to shaping ideas and advancing civilisation.

Dar ElAin Publishing in Egypt won the Publishing and Technology category. The cultural institution is known for its selectivity and meticulousness with regard to the books it publishes.

The house was praised for supporting the publication of high-value literary works and studies, not limiting itself to established authors, but also providing opportunities for creative youth.

“Every year, the winning works represent the top intellectual creations of a distinguished group of writers, authors, and thinkers from around the world,” said Ali bin Tamim, secretary-general of the awards and chairman of the Arabic Language Centre. “We congratulate them on their well-deserved win and encourage everyone to excel and work hard, starting today, to take part in the next round of the awards."

He said the awards' success is the result of "tireless efforts" from the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi.

He said the edition helped "shed light on a new and distinguished collection of intellectual and literary works", which "we count on to be the nucleus of a renewed cultural movement that enriches the cultural scene" in the region and the world.

The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award, who will receive Dh1 million, will be announced in the next few weeks. The winners will be honoured at a ceremony at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, coinciding with the 32nd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on May 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live through the Sheikh Zayed Book Award social media platforms.

Winners of other categories will each receive a gold medal, a certificate of merit and Dh750,000.

Updated: May 03, 2023, 11:52 AM