The 22 Entries for the 2012 Banipal Translation Prize

Critic M.A. Orthofer should be pleased; in the interest of transparency and fostering greater interest in Arabic literature (in translation), there’s been a shift in the administration of the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. According to a release:

I think the logo needs to be updated, though.

For the first time, the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, which runs the prize, decided to reveal the details of the entries, seeing it as an initiative that would encourage wider interest in the prize.

Among the 22 titles, listed below, there are a number of excellent translations by excellent translators: by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Roger Allen, Raphael Cohen (2 books), Humphrey Davies (2 books), Sinan Antoon, Marwa Elnaggar, Michelle Hartman, Laila Helmi, Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi, versions by Anthony Howell after , Robin Moger, Amira Nowaira (2 books), Chip Rosetti, Paul Starkey, Adam Talib (2 books), Max Weiss and Jonathan Wright (2 books).

There are a few titles missing — where is Samah’s translation of Miral Tahawy’s Brooklyn Heights? (Is that not eligible because there is a forthcoming UK edition? Or was the publication date too late?) Other surprises: There was a UK edition of In the Presence of Absence, and yet Sinan’s translation is still eligible. Good. So will Marilyn’s translation of As Though She Were Sleeping be eligible next year? Things to find out. 

In any case, I have read all but three. Two are my own fault, although I didn’t know about Plague Lands and other poems, by Fawzi Karim (versions by Anthony Howell after translations by Abbas Khadhim). Shame on Carcanet Press for not telling me.

A news release from the Banipal Trust quotes two-time Banipal winner Humphrey Davies as approving the change:

One always wondered if a particular title was in the running or not, he remarked, and looking at these 22 entries, what a range of literature there was from different publishers. He added that the covers alone, with their diversity and high quality of design, were an inviting statement of the strength of the new-found confidence of the Arabic novel on the British market.

Of the eligible books, Hagar before the Occupation, Hagar after the Occupation was on the shortlist of the 2012 “Best Translated Book Award” and Utopia was on the shortlist for the 2012 “SF&F Translation Awards”.

I have a favorite, yes, although I’m not sure how I feel about announcing it. Anyhow, the 22:

A Tunisian Tale by Hassouna Mosbahi, trans. Max Weiss (AUC Press)
Taxi by Khaled Alkamissi, trans. Jonathan Wright (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
I Was Born There, I was Born Here by Mourid Barghouti, trans. Humphrey Davies (Bloomsbury)
The Tobacco Keeper by Ali Bader, trans. Amira Nowaira (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, trans. Chip Rosetti (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
As Though She were Sleeping by Elias Khoury, trans. Humphrey Davies (Maclehose Press)

The Magic of Turquoise by Mai Khaled, translated by Marwa Elnaggar (AUC Press)
The Hashish Waiter by Khairy Shalaby, translated by Adam Talib (Haus Publishing)
Professor Hanaa by Reem Bassiouny, translated by Laila Helmi (Garnet Publishing)
Zeina by Nawal el-Saadawi, translated by Amira Nowaira (Saqi Books)
The Palm House by Tarek Eltayeb, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid (AUC Press)
Always Coca-Cola by Alexandra Chreiteh, translated by Michelle Hartman (Interlink)

So You May See by Mona Prince, translated by Raphael Cohen (AUC Press)
The Art of Forgetting by Ahlem Mostaghanemi, trans. Raphael Cohen (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
Vertigo by Ahmed Mourad, trans. Robin Moger (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
Plague Lands and other poems, by Fawzi Karim, versions by Anthony Howell after translations by Abbas Khadhim (Carcanet Press)
We Are all Equally Far from Love by Adania Shibli, translated by Paul Starkey (Clockroot Books)
Sarmada by Fadi Azzam, translated by Adam Talib (Swallow Editions)

In the Presence of Absence by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Sinan Antoon (Archipelago Books)
Judgment Day by Rasha al-Ameer, translated by Jonathan Wright (AUC Press)
A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich, translated by Roger Allen (Syracuse University Press)
Hagar before the Occupation, Hagar after the Occupation by Amal al-Jubouri, trans. Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi (Alice James Books)