The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation
About The Prize
The prize is an annual award of £3,000, made to the translator(s) of a published translation in English of 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 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize aims to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature as well as honouring the important work of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world. It was established by Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. The inaugural prize was awarded on 9 October 2006.
The prize is administered by the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom, alongside the other prizes for literary translation from languages that include Dutch, French, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. All are administered by the Society and awarded annually at a joint ceremony hosted by the Society and the TLS and supported by Arts Council England.
Kay Heikkinen is the winner of the 2020 prize for her translation of Velvet (Mukhmal) by Huzama Habayeb
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When the prize first started, the original cut-off point for the original Arabic publication was 35 years. As the years went by and as interest in literature from the Arab world increased since the establishment of the prize in 2005, in 2013 the Trust became concerned that the cut-off point would prevent translations of important authors being entered for the only prize in the world for published Arabic literary translation.
After much discussion the Trustees decided to extend the original Arabic publication date to after, or during, the year 1967, widely recognised as a "watershed" year for Arabic literature. "The date of 1967 . . . one of those historical watersheds that not only divide one historical period from another but also call radically into question the very principles by which literary historical periods and thereby the relationships between present and past, are established in the first place." Roger Allen, in Intertextuality in Modern Arabic Literature after 1967. 2014 marked the change in entry requirements.
In 2017 it was decided to introduce a shortlist instead of have "commended", "highly commended" or "runner-up". This was to be announced as soon as possible in December each year. For the 2017 prize, the shortlist was announced on 1 December 2017.
The first shortlist of four works was introduced with the 2017 Award
The deadline for entries and publication of works each year is 31 March. For full rules and conditions click here.
The Society of Authors is the administrator of the prize. Founded in 1884 "to protect the rights and further the interests of authors", it has over 7,500 members. Its first president was Alfred Lord Tennyson. Among its members have been many prominent writers, including George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, H G Wells, J M Barrie, John Masefield, E M Forster, A P Herbert, and countless contemporary writers.
Other literary translation prizes administered by the Society are:
- Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation
- Hellenic Foundation for Culture Award for Greek Translation (triennial)
- Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation
- Bernard Shaw Prize for Swedish Translation (triennial)
- Vondel Prize for Dutch Translation (biennial)
- Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Portuguese Translation (triennial)
- Premio Valle Inclan for Spanish Translation
- John Florio Prize for Italian Translation (biennial)