Authors from Morocco and Egypt sharing their thoughts with readers on Friday at the public park in Zayed City, where the book festival is being held Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Winners of the short stories category in the ‘Sard Al Thahab Award’ have revealed the circumstances that led them to create the tales of tragedy, redemption and other themes.

Al Dhafra Book Festival 2023 on Friday hosted the winners during a talk on stage at the public park in Zayed City. Moderated by Egyptian poet, author, and playwright Walid Alaa Eldin, the session brought together Moroccan authors Abdelrahim Selili and Huda Al Shamashi, along with Egyptian authors Mahmoud Saeed Mohamed and Rania Ahmed Helal Kamel.

Unfulfilled wish

Referencing his story ‘Zilzal’ (Earthquake), Selili said: “The story was inspired by pain. It addressed the theme of the earthquake that struck Morocco and the devastation it wrought, unfolding in 11 paragraphs that reveal the emotions associated with the disaster, focusing on the character of the grandmother who instructs the narrator to wake her up for Fajr [dawn] prayer, but her wish goes unfulfilled.”

Tale of redemption

Mohamed emphasised the significance of the short story in our present time, stating that its the format best suited for this era and the one that resonates the most. He discussed his work ‘Ibn Aarous: Almataha wal-Khalas’ (Ibn Aarous: The Maze and the Salvation), focusing on the character of Ibn Aarous. “He began his life as a bandit who disrupts caravans, kidnaps, and steals, before he changed course and transformed from a devil to an angel,” he explained, elaborating on his plot, where the author sought to send a message that every person has their redemption.

Village life

Having won the award for her story ‘Ma Bayn Shiqqay Raha’ (Between Two Millstones), author Kamel said that her story revolves around the old mill that was once an integral part of village life. The character in the story considered the mill to be the most important thing in existence, constantly insisting on its return whenever someone borrowed it, only for the mill to eventually succumb to decay. The author explained that her study of history and love for heritage enabled her to use this traditional device as a means to describe the village’s atmosphere and construct her world.

Tragedy strikes

Author Al Shamashi said: “Writing, for me, is like screaming – a way of expressing our feelings about events that concern us.” She added that her winning story, ‘Marthiyat al-’Itr wal-Bahr’ (Elegy of Fragrance and the Sea) combines the expulsion from Al Andalus in the past with the clandestine migration to Spain in the present. The story unfolds as a boat carrying dozens of people, including children, sinks.

The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre introduced the Sard Al Thahab Award to honour local and Arab storytellers and narrators of literature and folktales, shedding light on their most notable works that have made a mark on the Emirati, Arab, and international cultural landscape.