Organisers of the fifth annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award yesterday announced the winners of the contest.
Chinese writer wins Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Dh1m
ABU DHABI // The author of the History of Arabic Literature and a professor of Arabic Language at the University of Beijing, Prof Chung Jikon, has been recognised by Sheikh Zayed Book Award as the cultural personality of the year.
The award honours prominent figures for their unique contributions to the advancement of the Arabic culture and for works that portray tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence.
Prof Chung was recognised for his "generous contribution for more than 50 years in rooting the Arabic language in the Far East, by teaching, translating and researching our region's culture and literature", said Rashid al Oraimi, the secretary general of the award. "His translations and writings preserve the essence of our literature across continents, only wrapped in a different language," he said.
Prof Chung will receive a prize of Dh1 million, a gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award logo, and a certificate of merit at a ceremony at the Emirates Palace Hotel on March 16 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The award committee chose Prof Chung from 715 nominations from 28 countries.
"It's an honour not just to me but to all Chinese Arabists and other colleagues, as the family of Chinese Arabists is a large one," said Prof Chung in Beijing.
The History of Arabic Literature, told in two volumes containing 1,140 pages, took two decades to write. Prof Chung started back in the early 1980s by learning Arabic, later turning to the study of Arabic literature.
"We are in a dire need for this type of anthology; it was not done before," he said. "There are anthologies of European, German and American literatures, but we lacked a history of Arabic literature. As a professor of the Arabic language and Arabic literature, I felt sorry about the situation.
"But now I feel that with this work, we are enriching Arabic literature. In my opinion, Arab literature, with its prose and poetry, classic and modern, is so rich.
"It's unfair not to dedicate an encyclopaedia just for it. There are some concise histories of Arabic Literature but they are not exhaustive as they either focus on the classic or the modern era."
In addition to working as a writer and teacher, Prof Chung serves as the head of Chinese Society for Arabic Literature Studies and the vice-president of the culture committee at the China-Arab Friendship Association. He is also a member of the Chinese Writers Association and an honorary member of the Arab Writers Union. He has translated major works of iconic Arab novelists including Kahlil Jibran, Naguib Mahfouz, and Ih'san Abdul Quddus.
Winners in other categories receive Dh750,000, a gold medal and a certificate of merit. Dr Mohammad Miftah, of Morocco, won the literature award for Mafaheem Muwasa'a Li Nazaryah Shi'ryah.
Lebanon's Dr Abdel Raouf Sinno was chosen for "best contribution to the development of nations", for Harb Lubnan 1975-1990, an analysis of the social and economic circumstances in Lebanon during its civil war.
Syrian author Dr Mohammad Kebbeh won for best translation for Al Tharwah wa Iqtisad Al Ma'rifah, an Arabic version of Revolutionary Wealth, a book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Afaf Tabbalah of Egypt was awarded the children's literature prize for her book, Al Bayt Wal Nakhlah, credited by organisers as a diversion from the mainstream of children's literature.
No awards were given in the young author, fine arts, publishing and distribution and best technology in the field of culture awards, as none of the nominations met the judges' standards, the organisers said.
Last year's cultural personality was Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah.
The award was established in 2006, and is named after Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, to recognise innovators and thinkers who have contributed to the development of Arabic culture in the areas of knowledge, arts and humanities.
Dr Hafnaoui Baali won the literature category at the fourth annual Sheikh Zayed Book Awards in February last year for his book Comparative Cultural Criticism: an Introduction. He received a Dh750,000 cash prize, a certificate of merit and a gold medal worth about Dh75,000. The committee in charge withdrew the award last year, saying the book contained "wrongful appropriation of other authors' thoughts, ideas, and expressions, and the representation of them as one's own original work".
* With additional reporting by Anna Seaman