Taleb Al Refai has helped build bridges between Arab and Western cultures through his writings, Sharjah Book Authority says Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: This year’s ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ for the upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) is Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer Taleb Al Refai, SIBF organiser Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) announced on Sunday.

Through the selection of Al Refai, SBA aims to honour his contributions to Arabic literature that comprises of novels, short stories, and literary criticisms that has “helped build bridges between Arab and Western cultures”, and recognise his role in reviving the Gulf region’s literature for over three decades.

The 40th edition of SIBF, themed ‘There’s always a right book’, will run from November 3 to 13 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Writing at university

Born in 1958, Al Refai completed his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Kuwait University in 1982 and a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from Kingston University in London. He began writing during his time at university in the mid-1970s. Some of his works have been translated into English, French, and German.

Al Refai won the ‘Kuwaiti State Prize for Letters’ for his novel Ra’ihat al-Bahr (Scent of the Sea) in 2002. Between 2003 and 2008, he worked for the Kuwaiti National Council of Culture, Arts and Literature, and edited their monthly arts review, Jaridat Al Funoon.

He is also the chairman of Almultaqa Prize for Arabic short story, and has served as chairman of the jury committee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2010. His novel Fil al-Hana was longlisted at the 2016 edition of the prize.

Inspiring youth

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri

SBA Chairman Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri said: “By honouring Taleb Al Refai as Cultural Personality of the Year at SIBF 2021, we are paying respect to an accomplished individual whose valuable literary contributions have made him a well-known figure throughout the Arab world. His vast and varied experiences that shine through in his work will also inspire the younger generations in realising that the written word and intellectual creativity can take an author’s work to the centre stage of the global cultural map.”