Winners of the Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

We recommend you read the 2008 Winners of the Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. The following is a small excerpt from the Prize’s official website. I invite you to read about it in its entirety at

The 2008 Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation was awarded to Fady Joudah for his translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry collections in The Butterfly’s Burden, published in a bilingual edition by Bloodaxe Books in the UK, and by Copper Canyon Press in the USA, the latter being short-listed earlier this year for PEN America’s poetry in translation award. Joudah speaks of his work: “Translating Darwish’s poetry was a dream of beauty, of art, with the glimmer that art will lead to cultural and mutual respect among peoples and in making the translations I focused as much on the strange in the poems as on the familiar and the universal.”

The runner-up is Ghassan Nasr’s translation of the late Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s last novel, The Journals of Sarab Affan, published by Syracuse University Press. It is the work of another Palestinian author who was poet, novelist, art and music critic, and himself a superb translator of English literature and criticism into Arabic (not least the tragedies and sonnets of Shakespeare).

A third submission won commendation – the translation by Nancy Roberts of Salwa Bakr’s The Man from Bashmour, published by The American University in Cairo Press. The jury was deeply impressed by this submission, describing it as a “courageous novelistic exploration of Egypt’s complex relationship with its Christian (Coptic) community during the 9th century AD.

In conclusion, the jury expressly noted that “the quality of the majority of submissions to this year’s competition was extremely high, an indication of the ever-increasing skills exhibited by the still relatively small number of translators who are devoting themselves to the transfer of the treasures of the modern Arabic literary tradition to an English readership.


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