About the Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Kutub’s July selection honored Kareem James Abu-Zeid, who was one of the runner-ups of 2010’s Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his work with Cities without Palms (Mudun bila nakhil) by Tarek Etayeb.  Here is more about the prize and why it is so important.

The Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is awarded annually to translator(s) for the published English translation of a full-length imaginative and creative work of literary merit translated from the Arabic original. The prize aims to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature as well as honoring the important work of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.  It’s goal is to encourage and promote the wider translation of contemporary works of literature by Arab authors.

The prize was established by Banipal (a magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation) and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. It is administered by the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom and awarded annually at a ceremony hosted by the Society, the British Centre for Literary Translation and Arts Council England.  The Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family in memory of his father the late Saif Ghobash, an Emirati leader and thinker who was passionate about the literature of the Arab world and the literatures of other countries.  Along with a non-voting chair from the Banipal Trust, every year there are three judges, whose selection is made according to the following criteria: one is an author and/or literary translator from any language into English; one an English-language literary critic/editor and/or reviewer; and the third an experienced literary translator from Arabic into English.We’re delighted to use this opportunity to further support the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, which we hope will inspire more translations of Arab literature!!   Click here for full details about the prize.

The literary translator is a lynch-pin in the process of cultural dialogue. Translation between Arabic and English needs to be kept under the spotlight. I support this prize because we believe it is so important for developing dialogue with Arabic culture and literature. Arabic literature needs this prize, this attention. We believe that Banipal and their work provide a real bridge between Arabic culture and language and English language and culture. We are sure that this prize will draw more and more attention in the coming years and are proud to have been here at its beginning. Mohammad Ahmad Al-Sowaidi, Patron of the Banipal Prize, inaugural year 2006

Rarely has the anglophone world been more keen to hear Arab voices sharing their realities, and their fantasies, in their own words. We look forward to reading, learning and enjoying the new books that will now be brought to our attention. Amanda Hopkinson, then Director of the British Centre for Literary Translation

British public still has little access to literature from the Arab world, which could do so much to promote cross-cultural understanding. We hope that this prize will go some way towards raising the profile of Arabic literature in the UK, encouraging translators to translate more, publishers to publish more and readers to read more. Kate Griffin, then the International Literature Officer of Arts Council England

We invite you to check out previous winners of this prestigious translation award:

2010 – Winner: Humphrey Davies for his translation of Yalo by Elias Khoury

2010 – Runner-ups: Humphrey Davies, this time for his translation of Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher and Kareem James Abu-Zeid for his translation of Cities without Palms by Tarek Etayeb.

2009 – Winner: Samah Selim for her translation of The Collar and the Bracelet by the late Yahya Taher Abdullah.

2009 – Runner-ups: Michelle Hartman for her translation of Iman Humaydan Younes’s novel Wild Mulberries and Elliott Colla for his translation of Ibrahim al-Koni’s Gold Dust.

2008 – Winner: Fady Joudah for his translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry collections in The Butterfly’s Burden (a bilingual publication).

2008 – Runner-ups: Ghassan Nasr for his translation of the late Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s last novel, The Journals of Sarab Affan. Commendation to Nancy Roberts for her translation of Salwa Bakr’s The Man from Bashmour.

2007 – Winner: Farouk Mustafa (pen-name Farouk Abdel Wahab) for his translation of Khairy Shalaby’s The Lodging House

2007 – Runner-ups: Marilyn Booth for her translation of Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s first novel Thieves in Retirement. Commendation to Peter Theroux for his translation of Emile Habiby’s Saraya, The Ogre’s Daughter.

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