While works of literature in English are widely celebrated, it is still important to recognize the art of the written word in all languages, especially when it comes to Arabic works of literature. With the efforts of the Cultural Circle in Kuwait and the renowned educational hub AUK (The American University of Kuwait), Arabic literature is not only supported, but also celebrated, at the recent Al-Multaqa prize awards ceremony hosted by the university.
Under the patronage of the Minister of Al-Diwan Al-Amiri Affairs HE Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, writers of the region were recently given the chance to compete for the Al-Multaqa Arabic Short Story Prize.
Launched last year by writer Taleb Rifai, the Al-Multaqa Arabic Short Story Competition arrives in partnership with the Cultural Circle and AUK. Known as the first competition of its kind solely dedicated to the Arabic language short story, the long-awaited results were revealed at an awards ceremony hosted by AUK on December 5th and 6th, 2016. The ceremony was part of a two-day event that also included panel discussions from authors of Arabic short stories, and featured acclaimed authors, editors and publishers in attendance.
The esteemed jury committee held the responsibility of selecting the winning story out of the 189 short stories submitted for consideration. The jury committee included committee chair Ahmad Al-Madeeni, and panel members: Ezzat Elkamhawi, Dr. Fadia Faqir, Dr. Ali Al Enezi and narrator Salima Salih.
The two-day event was divided into three sessions, including a meet-and-greet with the jury, discussion panels, and speeches from special guests prior to the presentation of the sought-after Al Multaqa Prize. His Excellency the Minister gave a speech praising the efforts of Al-Multaqa’s mission to promote the art of short story writing in Arabic: “I commend Kuwait for initiating the first cycle of this prize, and hope that it establishes a presence in the Arabic literary and cultural scene by honoring authors for their creative efforts,” he said. “I also hope that this initiative will attract more young writers in the future.” These words of wisdom and encouragement touch close to the cause of emerging writers in the region honing their craft towards recognition, and inspire all creatives to really put literary works of our culture on the map. Literary works from the Middle East have been renowned throughout history, and there’s still room for it to be further celebrated.
During the first session of the competition, the jury and panel met the five shortlisted writers (Anis Arrafai, Ziad Khaddash, Lutf Al-Sarari, Mazen Maarouf, and Mohamed Rafie), with a panel moderated by Saudi Arabian literary critic Hassan Al-Naemi. The second and third sessions featured various established writers of the region in panel discussions moderated by literary critics Dr. Louay Hamzah and Fahad Al-Hendal. These panels enhanced the atmosphere and importance of the event, touching on the vitality of literary presence in the region, and what has already been contributed to it, and more importantly, how the art of the Arabic written word could be improved for forthcoming generations.
Then, jury chair Ahmed Al-Madeeni announced that Palestinian author Mazen Maarouf was the winner of the first cycle for his submission, Nukat Lelmusalaheen (Jokes for the Gunmen), and Maarouf was overjoyed! In his victory speech, he stated, “I am overwhelmed with happiness; I did not expect to win. I was thrilled with the announcement of the establishment of the prize because it provided the genre of short story-writing with rejuvenation and brought it back to life.” Maarouf received a trophy, a certificate and $20,000 (KD 6,126) in addition to having his winning collection translated into two languages, and the opportunity to have his works published. The other four finalists were honored on stage with a small trophy and a certificate of recognition for their participation, along with $5000 (KD 1,530) each.
We at bazaar would like to extend our congratulations to Mazen Maarouf, and commend him for his brilliant work. As fellow writers, we can only imagine the joy and pride he feels towards his success! We’d also like to encourage all other aspiring writers to join this brilliant opportunity for next year’s competition. Get your works ready, because submissions for the second cycle of the Al-Multaqa Short Story Prize will be accepted starting January 2017.
The American University of Kuwait (AUK) is an independent, private, and coeducational liberal arts institution of higher education. For more information about AUK visit www.auk.edu.kw or contact them on 180 2040 or 2224 8399 ext. 3148. Follow them on social media as American University of Kuwait on Facebook, @auk_kuwait on Instagram, and @AUKtweets on Twitter.