The Banipal Trust for Arab Literature

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Entries can only be submitted by publishers.
They can have been published in English anywhere in the world but must be available for purchase in the United Kingdom via a distributor or on-line.
Entries must have been first published in English translation in the year prior to the award. From the 2012 prize, the closing date for entries for each year is 31 March.

See Rules and Conditions

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The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is administered by The Society of Authors

The other literary translation prizes administered by The Society of Authors are for translation from French, German, French, Spanish and Italian. For more information on the prizes, click here

About The Prize

The Prize
The Society of Authors

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 current 2023 Prize is now being judged by a new panel of judges, comprising chair of judges Ros Schwartz and Barbara Schwepke who will read only the English translations, with Tony Calderbank and Sarah Enany who will read both the Arabic originals and the English translations – click here for full details of this new panel. This eighteenth year of the prize has 20 entries.  Click here to see to see the books have been entered, who has translated them and who has published them.

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 all other UK prizes for literary translation from languages that include Dutch, French, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, plus a prize for first translation into English from any other language. All are administered by the Society of Authors and awarded annually at a joint ceremony hosted by the Society.

    Luke Leafgren is the winner of the 2023 prize for his translation
Mr N by Najwa Barakat (And Other Stories)

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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". It is announced on 1 December each year. 

The other works shortlisted for the 2023 Award

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In 2015, at the start of its tenth year of awarding prizes for contemporary Arabic literature translated into English, the sponsors, Omar Ghobash and the Ghobash family, agreed to mark the occasion by extending their sponsorship to establish an annual lecture on literary translation. The inaugural lecture took place on 14 October 2016 at the British Library Knowledge Centre in London, given by the author, translator and essayist Anton Shammas on Blind Spots: A millennium of Arabic in translation – from Ibn al-Haytham to William Faulkner via Don Quixote. The 2017, 2018 and 2019 Lectures were also held at the British Library, 2017's given by Robert Irwin on Tayeb Salh's Season of Migration to the North: 'the most important Arabic novel of the 20th Century', the 2018 Lecture was given by the poet Adonis on Translation: A Second Act of Creation, and in 2019 Hanan al-Shaykh spoke on My Travels through Cultures, Languages and Writing – from Abu Nuwas to Bint al-Shaykh. In 2020 Liana Badr delivered a virtual lecture in both Arabic and English on Creating a Mosaic of Literature. Click here for all information about lectures.
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Entries for the prize can be submitted between 1 January and 31 March. For the 2024 prize, the publication dates of entries must be between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024. For full rules and conditions click here. 


The Society of Authors 

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:

  • John Florio Prize for Italian Translation (biennial)
  • Goethe-Institut Award (biennial)
  • Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation (annual)
  • Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation (annual)
  • Bernard Shaw Prize for Swedish Translation (triennial)
  • Premio Valle Inclán for Spanish Translation (annual)
  • The TA (Translators Association) First Translation Prize from any language (annual)
  • The TLS-Risa Domb/Porjes Prize for Hebrew Translation (triennial)
  • Vondel Prize for Dutch Translation (biennial)

    and from 2023
  • Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize (Japanese)