Sheikh Zayed Book Award Holds Cultural Seminar in Milan
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) hosted the second instalment in its series of international seminars in Milan on 5th October, as part of its commitment to advance Arab culture.
Entitled ‘A Dialogue Between Arab and Italian Literature’, the event was held at the museum Villa Necchi Campiglio and introduced the Italian audience to the most notable initiatives by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award that encourage annual nominations from outside the Arab region.
The seminar welcomed HE Consul General of the United Arab Emirates in Milano along with Consul Generals of Egypt and Kuwait and an array of authors, publishers and translators. The event was inaugurated with a speech by HE Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of SZBA, followed by a note by Abdullah Majid Al Ali, Acting Executive Director of the National Library Sector at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Award. The event included a panel discussion featuring renowned Professor and philosopher Carlo Sini; Italian publisher and founder of Marcos y Marcos publishing house Marco Zapparoli; Italian author and journalist Alessandro Zaccuri; philosopher and academic Paolo Spincci; representative of Milan National Library Aldo Pirola, and Italian editor and journalist Paolo Gualandris who moderated the talk.
HE Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary General of the SZBA spoke about the cultural initiatives and the global dimension of the Award, and the translation fund that aims to introduce Italian culture to Arab audiences. “A civilisation is a broad and extensive cultural entity, which is highly susceptible to the influence of other civilisations, leading to enriching human societies and history in general,” he said. “The interaction between different cultures and civilisations depends primarily on translation, not as an intellectual luxury, but due to the intrinsic human need to connect with others. This profound role of translation affects the shaping of perceptions, diversifying cultural and intellectual heritage, enhancing the means to understand others, adapting with progress and expanding knowledge. Consequently, we at the Award encourage all fruitful collaborations, due to our strong belief in sustaining a healthy dialogue between cultures and civilisations, for the great role it plays in fostering development and growth, as there is no civilisation that arose on its own in isolation from the rest of the world.”
Additionally, Abdullah Majed Al Ali, spoke about the many continuous efforts of DCT Abu Dhabi in promoting translation, cultural development, intellectual thought, and the heritage of the United Arab Emirates, and how the SZBA translation fund plays a key role in furthering these endeavours, saying: “This seminar, alongside the numerous cultural initiatives launched by DCT Abu Dhabi, contributes to defining Abu Dhabi as a beacon for culture on the international front. Through these many projects, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi that was opened last year and the upcoming world museums of Saadiyat Cultural District, which include the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, we aim to spread the values of tolerance, understanding and respect for others globally.”
Commenting on the role of translation in spreading cultural awareness, Alessandro Zaccuri mentioned Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “Averroes’s Search”, where the great philosopher in Cordoba translated Roman and Greek comedies and tragedies in an expressive way that linked completely to the content of the passage, introducing new names and phrases to best describe the setting in an understandable way to the Arab-speaking world. He stressed the importance of translation and the importance of the opportunity presented by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Italian publishing houses, writers and translators, as it will give Italian literature an opportunity to encompass new meanings from the Arabic culture and language.
On the other hand, renowned Philosophy professor Carlo Sini discussed the impact of Arab civilisation on Europe, by saying: “This golden age in translation and cultural exchange gave us the opportunity to learn about the Greek, Arab and Islamic civilisations, and without them, countless cultures and heritage legacies would have been completely destroyed.”
He added: “Translation was never only exclusive to philosophy texts, but also included natural sciences, linguistics, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, engineering and other sciences. It also contributed to preserving the teachings and scriptures of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and whoever could deny this truth is committing a crime against all of humanity. This Award is offering a wonderful chance that aligns with the nature of those past great schools, and we have to take this opportunity given to us in the service of global culture.”
The event also featured poetry recitals from poems by Arab poet Al Ma’arri and famous Italian poet Dante, on which Aldo Pirola commented: “We heard a text by Abu al Ala’ al Ma’arri in Arabic and a text for Dante in both Arabic and Italian, and despite the fact that each text was produced three-centuries apart – the text of Al Mua’arri from the 11th Century and Dante’s from the 14th – the similarities between the two are very clear in terms of the concepts they explore, as both discuss religion and life. This indicates the universality and humanity of literature, which is constantly invested in the life of humans, their thoughts, delights and troubles. We are in extreme need today for opportunities that encourage translation as a profession and a text concerning humanity such as this one given to us by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.”
For his part, philosopher Paolo Spincci said: “I would like to discuss a pleasant issue here today, which, contrary to what one can expect, is a great treasure for all of us. It is the ability for us to utterly relate to a poetic text that had been written in a time long gone before us, despite the huge time, cultural and sometimes even language difference. We read it, and see it in all its beauty. We can experience this when reading “The Message of Forgiveness” by Al Ma’arri, as well as Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, two texts that prove the intricate webs of ancient cultural connections, surpassing time, geography and language barriers. As you can see, we always communicate our writings, views and ideas in a specific language, which expresses our own unique mindset, which infers that even thinking needs a language to be communicated through. This language is undoubtedly linked to a certain geography that we call our home, which is transmitted little by little with the transformation of language.”
He added: “Today, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award brings an opportunity to learn about these treasures in literature in ancient Arab culture. Allowing us to live in a new world or home to understand this civilisation closely. I urge publishing houses, writers, philosophers, and thinkers to take advantage of this rare occasion that bridges dialogue and communication with others.”
The Milan instalment was the second in a series of seminars organised by SZBA this year to promote award-winning books, with the next event to be held in the United Kingdom. Previous seminars have been held in London, Moscow, Lisbon, and most recently New York.