Sharjah Opens $350,000 Turjuman Award for Books in Translation

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‘To show the world the real image of Arabs and Muslims and their contributions to human civilization,’ Sharjah’s new Turjuman Award is for publishers who bring major Arabic texts into translation.

A gala dinner at Al Noor Island in Sharjah in April opens the emirate’s week of events as UNESCO’s 19th World Book Capital. The Turjuman Award follows as a recognition of significant translation of Arabic literature. Image: SWBC, Nabs Ahmedi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Deadline for Submissions: August 31
Following Tuesday evening’s award in London of the UK’s first Man Booker International Prize to an Arabic author—the Omani writer Jokha Alharthi—and translator Marilyn Booth, the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah has announced this morning (May 22) the opening of its Turjuman Award for pivotal works in translation from the Arabic language.

The total value of the prize is 1.3 million UAE dirhams (US$353,918), and the distribution of the prize money reflects the key mission of the award to encourage the translation of important Arabic work:

Seventy percent of the purse is to be distributed to the international publishing house that holds the translation rights for the winning book, and 30 percent goes to the Arabic publishing house that holds the first edition rights for the winning title.

The name Turjuman comes from an Arabic root for interpreter or guide, a translator.

The Sharjah Book Authority, led by its chairman, Ahmed Al Ameri, has made the announcement today through the Sharjah International Book Fair, which this year is scheduled for October 30 to November 9. Sharjah and its Al Qasimi royal family, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, is building the emirate’s presence as the Arab world’s leading hub of literature in society and international publishing, reflected in the establishment of the book authority’s Sharjah Publishing City free trade zone and this year’s designation of the emirate as UNESCO’s first Arabian World Book Capital.

Sharjah’s book fair has an extensive regime of awards that include:

A cultural personality prize, an award for an Emirati book, honors for a best Arabic novel, a best international book, and a publisher’s recognition. The Turjuman Award adds a dimension of major value to a publisher, with its precise focus on encouraging international publication in translation of what organizers are calling “the best Arab and Islamic works and achievements, so as to show the world the real image of Arabs and Muslims and their contributions to human civilization across many fields of knowledge, philosophy and applied and theoretical sciences.”

Based in the policies of the Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi—the author-ruler of Sharjah–the Turjuman Award, in its presentation materials stresses the program’s interest in content that promotes transparency and humanist values. With its rich purse and its emphasis on publishers and learned texts, the Turjuman carries a gravitas not unlike that of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which is administered in the nearby emirate Abu Dhabi, and it joins the Zayed award and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in promoting literature as a bridge to inter-cultural understanding.

“The award honors translated international accomplishments,” according to media messaging from the book authority, “that are characterized by an emphasis on subjectivity and that work against intolerance.

“Such works help create a real and effective convergence of people through the use of science, knowledge, and culture. The award emphasizes Arabs’ and Muslims’ keenness to build their communication with the West and other nations through the exchange, promotion, and recognition of culture.”

Details for Publishers’ Submissions

Participation will be is open annually with the launch of Sharjah International Book Fair in November of every year. Submissions are accepted between then and end of August the following year. The winner is then announced and awarded at the next edition of the fair.

Those interested in making submissions—due by the end of August, are advised to read carefully the Conditions tab on the award’s site. The program is open to all Arab and international publishing houses that have foreign translations (in any of the world’s languages) from an original publication that is issued in Arabic in its first edition, “provided that these translations are linked to the Award’s subject and importance.”

A publisher making a submission this year must:

  1. Send four hardcopies of the translated book and one Arabic copy (hardcopy or softcopy) for each work nominated.
  2. The publishing house must submit a 500-word written summary in Arabic or the translation language that includes an introduction about the author, as well as the content and importance of the nominated book.
  3. Publishing houses will be committed to submitting proof of copyrights and all of the documents pertaining to the legitimacy of the translation, publishing, and circulation.
  4. Complete and print the online application form and ship the form and the nominated book’s copies to Sharjah Book Authority at the address provided on the site’s form.

The jurying of the award is to be done by a committee of translators and authors, and criteria of selection include:

  • The strength of the language
  • The significance of the topic being translated
  • The value that the work adds in being translated into another language
  • The strength of the translation and the correct transfer between the two languages, especially in keeping the spirit of the original text
  • Smooth and clear translation
  • Knowledge of all aspects of the topics being translated through consecutive chapters (a special criterion for studies and scientific research)
  • Adherence to scientific honesty (a special criterion for studies and scientific research)

More from Publishing Perspectives on Sharjah is here, more on the UNESCO World Book Capital program is here, and more on publishing and book prizes on the international scene is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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