x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Authors book their place in history

Four diverse works have won the 2012 Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Judges selected them out of 560 nominations from 26 countries for the prize named in honour of the founding President.

The Tunisian author Leila Labidi scooped an award for her book about humour in Islam.
The Tunisian author Leila Labidi scooped an award for her book about humour in Islam.

ABU DHABI // A book on Islamic humour and a novel about a blind teenager have one highly commendable thing in common: they are among the winners of the 2012 Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

Ali bin Tamim, the secretary general of the award, announced the winners yesterday.

Leila Labidi, from Tunisia, was proud to be one of them after her Al Fakkah fi Al Islam (Humour in Islam) took the prize for the Young Author category.

"I had a feeling the book would win the award," Ms Labidi said. "I really wanted this book to reach people … even if it was written by someone else, I would've wanted people to read it. It has a big message."

Al Fakkah fi Al Islam was her thesis for a postgraduate diploma, and to write it she scrutinised Islamic texts for discussions of humour, moderation and simplicity.

The judges chose the book because it highlights the "true values" of Islam, Mr bin Tamim said.

Abdo Wazen, the Lebanese author of The Boy Who Saw the Colour of Air, wrote his novel in the hope it would highlight the lack of resources for children with special needs.

To write it, Mr Wazen researched the subject of blind youth but found only academic accounts, none of which talked about life with the disability.

His novel, which won the Children's Literature category, was part truth and part fiction, inspired by boy he knows whose blindness has brought many hardships despite his many abilities.

The book's main character, Basem, is born blind. He thirsts for knowledge, listening to his siblings while they studied and asking his cousin to read to him.

When Basem turns 13, he enters a special academy for the blind and learns Braille and computer skills.

The judges chose the book because it "promotes fundamental ethical values among young readers", Mr bin Tamim said. "The novel describes in beautiful narrative language the lives of people with special needs."

The huge effort in bringing A Prelude to Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy to Arabic readers earned Abou Yaareb Al Marzouqi, of Tunisia, the prize for the Translation category.

Mr Al Marzouqi took two years to translate the text by the highly influential philosopher Edmund Husserl from German to Arabic.

A professor and a member of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, Mr Al Marzouqi said he chose the book because it was "the cornerstone to all modern studies in literature and philosophy".

The winner of the Fine Arts category was the Egyptian Shaker Abdel Hamid's Art and Eccentrics.

The winning authors each received Dh750,000 in prize money.

Awards for the Literature and Best Contribution to the Development of the Country categories were not given this year, as the judges said nominations did not meet the contest's standards.

The book award was established in 2006 in memory of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President.

"He believed that nations are not capable of progress without a foundation of culture and knowledge," Mr bin Tamim said.

The judges received 560 nominations from 27 countries.

Mr bin Tamim also announced the winner of Cultural Personality of the Year: the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

He said the council chose Unesco for the Dh1 million prize because of "the key role it plays in preserving the global cultural heritage".

The Publishing and Distribution prize was awarded to Brill, a Dutch company that publishes books about the Middle East and Islam.

Finally, the prize for Best Technology in the Field of Culture was awarded to Paju Book City, a complex devoted to South Korea's publishing industry.

Paju Book City unites publishing, printing, book stores and more in a one-stop shop.

vnereim@thenational.ae