The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Translation Names Its Shortlist

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The Banipal Prize for Arabic Translation’s shortlist features five works in English from Arabic, the winner to be named January 12.

The five shortlisted titles in the 2021 Banipal Prize program are, from left, ‘Voices of the Lost,’ translated by Marilyn Booth; The Girl with the Braided Hair,’ translated by Sarah Enany; ‘A Bed for the King’s Daughter,’ translated by Sawad Hussain; ‘The Frightened Ones,’ translated by Elisabeth Jaquette; and ‘God99,’ translated by Jonathan Wright

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

A Ceremony Is Planned for February 10
The London-based Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation has announced today (November 23) its 2021 shortlist.

Again this year, novels are dominant in the list, as chosen by a series of longlists produced by the program’s jurors. There was, the program’s organizers say, a lot of agreement between the four jurors’ choices, and a process of consensus has produced the five-title shortlist.

Those jurors are:

  • Roger Allen, professor emeritus of Arabic and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Rosemarie Hudson, founding publisher of HopeRoad Publishing
  • Ronak Hosni, professor of Arabic and translation studies at the American University of Sharjah
  • Caroline McCormick, the director of the Achates Philanthropy

This is one of the translation prize programs administered in the United Kingdom by the Society of Authors in London. It’s an annual prize with a purse of £3,000 (US$4,004), which goes to the translator or translators of a published translation in English from “a full-length imaginative and creative Arabic work of literary merit published after, or during, the year 1967 and first published in English translation in the year prior to the award.”

The prize’s intention is to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature while honoring the important role of translators in bringing work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world. The program has an annual deadline of March 31, with more information here.

Organizers today note that the first round of the program’s awards was won in 2006 by the late translator Humphrey Davies, who has died this month.

And we start the shortlist today with a work very familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers for its win in 2019 of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the English translation of Night Mail, as Voices of the Lost, from Juliet Mabey’s Oneworld. Our interview at the time with its author, Hoda Barakat—the second woman author to win the International Prize—is here. And our coverage of the work of the nominated translator, Marilyn Booth, is here.

The 2021 Banipal Prize Shortlist

The Banipal Prize’s 2021 shortlisted translations’ authors are, from left, Hoda Barakat; Rasha Adly; Shahla Ujayli; Dima Wannous; and Hassan Blasim

Author Translator Title Country Publisher (of translated edition)
Hoda Barakat Marilyn Booth Voices of the Lost Lebanon Oneworld
Rasha Adly Sarah Enany The Girl With Braided Hair Egypt Hoopoe Fiction
Shahla Ujayli Sawad Hussain A Bed for the King’s Daughter Syria Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas Press
Dima Wannous Elisabeth Jaquette The Frightened Ones Syria Penguin Random House, Harvill Secker
Hassan Blasim Jonathan Wright God99 Finland Comma Press

Kay Heikkinen won the 2020 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for her Arabic-to-English translation of the novel Velvet by Huzama Habayeb, published by Hoopoe Fiction. The prize is wholly sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family in memory of the late Saif Ghobash, a man passionate about Arabic literature and other literatures of the world.

The sixth annual Banipal Prize lecture took place on 10 November 2021, delivered by Jonathan Wright, who has won the prize twice and is shortlisted again this year.

The 2021 winner is expected to be announced by the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature on January 12. The award ceremony, which includes all the translation prizes, is to be  digitally rendered again and is hosted by the Society of Authors, set for February 10.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Arabic literature is here. More from us on the Banipal Prize is here, more on translation is here, and more on publishing and book awards is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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