The Library and Book Club
The Banipal Arab British Centre Library of Modern Arab Literature (BALMAL) is a unique literary resource in the heart of London, containing volumes of fiction, poetry, plays and memoirs by Arab authors translated into English or in the English original. This collection began at the 2008 London Book Fair where, for the first time ever, Arab publishers were the market focus. Banipal and the London Book Fair collaborated on a display of literary works donated by publishers. These books formed the foundation of BALMAL, which formally opened in January 2010 with a special reception the evening after the Award ceremony of the 2009 Saif Ghobash Banipal Arabic Literary Translation Prize. The library has been growing ever since and now contains over a 1000 volumes of literature.
It is updated regularly with new novels, collections of poetry and of short stories, plays, autobiographies, memoirs and some volumes of literary criticism.
Lifetime membership of the library costs just £10 – click here for more details.
To browse online the rich collection of Arab fiction in the BALMAL Library, click here
Each year there is a steady stream of new books – fiction and poetry – in translation added to the library shelves. We try to make sure that all the entries each year to the Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize in the Library, are there, ready to be borrowed. There is a special display each year for the entries into the Prize, then of the shortlisted works and finally the winning translation – which for the 2018 prize, awarded in Spring 2019, was The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli, translated by Luke Leafgren.
Among the new books in the Library:
Some of the popular titles are:
The Bamboo Stalk(paperback and hardback editions)
by Saud Alsanousi, translated by Jonathan Wright
The Longing of the Dervish by Hammour Ziada,
also translated by Jonathan Wright.
The Book of the Sultan's Seal by Youssef Rakha,
the winning novel of the
2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation
translated by Paul Starkey. Click here for more information.
Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser,
translated by Jonathan Wright, and commended for
the 2015 Prize. Click here for more information.
Become a Library member and you can borrow up to three books. Among the books you can find all the 29 entries for the 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, including Dates on my Fingers by Muhsin al-Ramli (to see library entry click here).
You can find all the information about the Library by clicking here.
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Browse the catalogue by Author or by Title:
BALMAL is easy to join – just a one-off fee of £10 and you get your library card and membership with which you can borrow up to three books. If you want to browse and visit, just contact the Arab British Centre on 020 7832 1310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. The Library is open 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am to 4.30pm on Fridays. For more information click here.
We look forward to the library encouraging the reading of contemporary literature in translation from the Arab world. Banipal maintains an up-to-date list of translated literary works by Arab authors – which at present includes over 1,200 titles – with the goal of adding as many as possible to the library. The fiction, poetry, plays and memoirs are mostly translated from Arabic, although works in any language produced by authors of Arab heritage are included, so the library also contains literature translated from French, German and Dutch, and some works originally written in English. There are also volumes of literary criticism.
BALMAL library is managed by the Arab British Centre and also includes a collection of works about the Arab world covering history, politics, travel, art and cookery. There is a total of over 2,000 titles. For more information click here.
The books include the entries for each year's entries of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize and that includes all the prizewinning titles from 2006. This year's entries are available on short loan of one week, instead of the usual three.
• The Corpse Washer, written and translated by Sinan Antoon – winning title of the 2014 prize.
• Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan, translated by Jonathan Wright, and A Land Without Jasmine by Wagdi al-Ahdal, translated by William M Hutchins, were co-winning titles for the 2013 prize.
• A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich, translated by Roger Allen – the winning 2012 title. The two other novels by Bensalem Himmich translated by Roger Allen are also in the library. To go to their entries, click on The Polymath and/or The Theocrat.
Other authors with works in the library:
Mohamed el-Bisatie died in 2012 after a long illness. His five works in English translation are in the Library:
Houses Behind the Trees, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Clamor of the Lake, translated by Hala Halim
Over the Bridge, translated by Nancy Roberts
Hunger, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies
Drumbeat, translated by Peter Daniel
– great reads in the library, recommended by translators, editors and reviewers for Banipal.
Click the book titles to read the library entries.
Click the Review title to read the reviews.
Recommended by translators
Humphrey Davies (twice a winner and twice a runner-up of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation):
Beer in the Snooker Hall by Waguih Ghali.
“A mournful and truculent account of the tensions between Egypt and the West, insider and outsider, idealism and disillusionment, that is as fresh today as when it was written in the years following another revolution.”
Barbara Romaine (runner-up in the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for her translation of Spectres by Radwa Ashour):
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies.
“I (doubtless in company with others) would like to propose Denys Johnson-Davies's gorgeous translation of Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih. The novel itself has of course become a classic of modern Arabic literature; as for the English rendition by Johnson-Davies, it is one of the best translations from Arabic to English (possibly THE best) that I have ever seen. My husband, who is a native speaker of Arabic, loves this novel, too; like me, he has read it in both Arabic and English and admires the translation about equally with the original.”
In the Library
Adonis: Selected Poems
translated by Khaled Mattawa
Read the Review by Stephen Watts in Banipal 41.
Yalo by Elias Khoury
translated by Humphrey Davies
Read the Review reviewed by James Dalglish in Banipal 40.
In the Library
In a Fertile DesertSelected, translated and introduced by Denys Johnson-Davies
Read the Review by Alice Johnson in Banipal 42
In the Library
The Baghdad Blues by Sinan Antoon
Read the Review by Alfred Corn in Banipal 36.
Evoking more than devastation and death
In the Library
Wild Mulberries by Iman Humaydan Younes
Translated by Michelle Hartman
Read the Review by Aamer Hussein in Banipal 33.
The map and mosaic of Sarah's journey