Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Banipal launches Arabic translation prize

The status and practice of literary translation from Arabic into English has received a boost with the announcement of the launch of the annual Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, worth £2000. The prize has been established by Banipal, the London-based magazine of modern Arab literature founded in 1998, and by the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, established in September 2004.

The prize’s patron is the secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Mohammed Ahmad al-Sowaidi, a poet and well-known patron of the arts. Al-Sowaidi says: “The aim of sponsoring the prize in its first year is to participate in building bridges between Arab culture and the Western reader. We consider this participation to be very necessary at this time, even for existential reasons. For literature plays the role of narrating the self in a world of numerous narrations, a world that no longer permits the isolation of cultures.”

The prize will be awarded for the first time next year, and the closing date for entries is 27 January. The prize is for the translation of a full-length imaginative and creative work of literary merit published in English. It will celebrate the works of contemporary Arab authors as well as honouring the work of translators in bringing the work of Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.

The prize is administered by the Translators Association of the Society of Authors in London. It joins the ranks of other prestigious translation prizes administered by the Society, including the Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from French, and prizes for translation from Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

To qualify for entry, the original Arabic should have been published no more than 34 years preceding submission for the prize. For the first year the entries must have first been published in English during 2004 or 2005. For successive years, entries must have first been published in English in the year prior to the award. Although the entries can have been published in English anywhere in the world, they must be available for purchase in the UK.

Since its creation eight years ago, Banipal has been played a unique role in bringing translations of Arab literature from Arabic, and sometimes French, to the English-reading public. Its latest issue includes an extract, in English translation by Roger Allen, from “Hikayati Sharhun Yatool” (“My Story is Too Long to Tell”), the new novel of Lebanese author Hanan Al-Shaykh.

There is also an extract, translated by Christina Phillips, of the novel “Salsal” (“Clay”) by the Syrian writer Samar Yazbek. The book reviews section of Banipal includes reviews of the novels “The Poor Man’s Son” by Algerian writer Mouloud Feraoun and “The Yacoubian Building” by Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany.

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette
27 December 2005

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