What They Say
It is more important than ever that voices from around the world can be heard in English, so a prize that honours the work of translators from Arabic and also highlights some of the fine Arabic books we can now read is to be greatly welcomed and applauded.
Carole Welch, Publisher, Sceptre
Recognising the work and the talent of translators by placing them side-by-side with recipients of the long-established and prestigious awards such as the Schlegel-Tieck Prize is a vital step towards bringing Arabic literature into the mainstream.
Barbara Schwepcke, Publisher, Haus Publishing
What they said about the inaugural prize,
presented 9 October 2006, at the British Centre for Literary Translation,
University of East Anglia, Norwich
Winning the Banipal Prize represents for me, primarily, recognition of the novel itself. Gate of the Sun is a work of extraordinary strength that non-Arabic readers need to have available.
Inaugural prizewinner Humphrey Davies
The judges were unanimous in awarding the inaugural Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation to Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun (Harvill Secker), translated by Humphrey Davies. The novel is a monumental achievement, whose translation by Humphrey Davies brilliantly captures the nuances and style of the original.
Maya Jaggi, Judge, Banipal Translation Prize 2006
What impressed me most was the natural poetry in the prose. This – the innate poetry bursting out from even prose writers – is, I think, is one of the great strengths of Arabic language and literature. Needless to say, to convey such delicate poetry to an English readership is also a great achievement by the translators. Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun, which the judges unanimously declared the winner of the prize, is a haunting book on the Palestinian passion.
Moris Farhi, Judge, Banipal Translation Prize 2006
Gate of the Sun is such an outstanding work that almost anything else was going to have a problem – assuming, of course, that the translation itself is good. And in this case, it’s excellent.
Roger Allen, Judge, Banipal Translation Prize 2006
Since the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to the late Naguib Mahfouz in 1988, the English-language reading world has been made aware that there is a rich store of contemporary writing in Arabic. Good translators have been few and those few need encouragement. Now, thanks to the Banipal Trust and the enlightened generosity of Mohammad Ahmad Al-Sowaidi, Arabic literature in translation is getting the recognition and reward enjoyed by some of the other global literary languages.
Peter Clark, Trustee, The Banipal Trust for Arab Literature
The literary translator is a lynch-pin in the process of cultural dialogue. Translation between Arabic and English needs to be kept under the spotlight. I support this prize because we believe it is so important for developing dialogue with Arabic culture and literature. Arabic literature needs this prize, this attention. We believe that Banipal and their work provide a real bridge between Arabic culture and language and English language and culture. We are sure that this prize will draw more and more attention in the coming years and are proud to have been here at its beginning.
Mohammad Ahmad Al-Sowaidi, Patron of the Banipal Prize, inaugural year 2006
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And . . . what was said when the prize was established in 2005
The British Centre for Literary Translation welcomes the establishment of a new prize for literary translation from the Arabic. Rarely has the anglophone world been more keen to hear Arab voices sharing their realities, and their fantasies, in their own words. We look forward to reading, learning and enjoying the new books that will now be brought to our attention.
Amanda Hopkinson, then Director of the British Centre for Literary Translation
The Arts Council is very pleased to support the establishment of the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. Despite the efforts of Banipal magazine and others, the British public still has little access to literature from the Arab world, which could do so much to promote cross-cultural understanding. We hope that this prize will go some way towards raising the profile of Arabic literature in the UK, encouraging translators to translate more, publishers to publish more and readers to read more.
Kate Griffin, then the International Literature Officer of Arts Council England