ABU DHABI // The Spanish scholar, translator and writer Pedro Montávez has been awarded this year's top Sheikh Zayed Book Award as the cultural personality of the year. The award honours a figure who has contributed to the advancement of Arabic culture through promoting works of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Prof Montávez was recognised for his "leading role in building bridges between Arab and Spanish cultures and his continuing efforts in opening dialogue amid both cultures," said Rashed al Oraimi, the secretary general of the awards. With a portfolio that includes more than 20 books about Arabic literature, Andalusian history and the status of modern Arabia, Prof Montávez was lauded as "one of the most prestigious, modern Spanish Arabists of our time."
A professor in Semitic philology at the University of Madrid, he has also translated into Spanish the works of such internationally recognised Arabic poets as Nizar Qabbani, Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis and Khalil Gibran. Announcements of the winners in the nine categories of the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards began in early February. The Cultural Personality of the Year was the last. Prof Montávez will receive Dh1 million (US$272,000), a gold medal a certificate at a ceremony at the Emirates Palace hotel on March 18 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Winners in each of the other categories will receive Dh750,000. The award committee received 621 works from 26 countries for review this year. "It was a stringent process to choose from the shortlisted nominees; they all have made significant contributions to the Arab culture and deserve to be honoured," Mr al Oraimi said.
Awards are to be given to the writer Jamal al Ghitani for literature, the writer and cinematographer Dr Maher Rady for fine arts, the linguist Dr Saad Maslouh for translation, the sociologist Dr Baqer al Najjar for best contribution to the development of the country, the writer Yousef Waglesi for young author and the publishing house Al-Dar Al-Masriah Al Lubnaniah for publisher. The prizes for children's literature and best technology in the field of culture will not be awarded this year as entries did not meet the minimum standards, the organisers said. Set up with the support of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the awards were established in the memory of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, to recognise thinkers, writers and publishers who have contributed to the development of Arabic culture in the fields of creative writing, translation and humanities. firstname.lastname@example.org