Jonathan Wright and William Hutchins Co-winners of 2013 Banipal Translation Prize

For the first time in its history, the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for the translation of Arabic literature will be shared by two translators: Jonathan Wright (for his translation of Youssef Ziedan’s IPAF-winning Azazeel) and William Hutchins (for his translation of Wajdi al-Ahdal’s A Land Without Jasmine):

wright_hutchinsThe judges’ statement mostly reflects on the strengths of the novel: “The book’s great strength lies in its strangeness, a product of the state of mind of its narrator as he struggles with demonic possession and spiritual angst. In vivid, evocative prose,  the author plunges us into fifth century Egypt, rendered three-dimensional and immediate in vivid, evocative prose.”

But also adds, about the translation: “Azazeel has been flawlessly translated making this an easily accessible story.”

Wright is also the translator of Rasha al-Ameer’s Judgment Day, two short-story collections by Hassan Blasim, and Khaled al-Khamissi’s Taxi, among other works.

And, about Land Without Jasmine, the judges said:

A Land Without Jasmine gives fascinating insight on life in Yemen, with a thriller-like plot that keeps the reader turning the page. In sparse, lucid prose with a tight narrative structure, the author paints a riveting portrait of sexual confusion, frustration and shame. The translation succeeded in creating an enjoyable English read and at the same time preserving the soul of the original.

Hutchins has translated many modern novelists, including Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Muhammad Salmawy, al-Jahiz, Nawal El-Saadawi, Muhammad Khudayyir, Ibrahim al-Koni, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hassan Nasr, Amir Tagelsir, and others.

Unlike past years, no runners-up were announced.

For the 2013 prize, just 21 titles were entered (down from 22 last year). The prize considers only translations that were published in or made available in the UK.

This year’s judges were two-time Banipal prize winner Humphrey Davies, playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak and authors Rajeev Balasubramanyam and Meike Ziervogel.


Jonathan Wright talks about Judgment Dayby Rasha al-Ameer, which he said was a more difficult translation than Azazeel.

Wright’s “rules for translating”

William Hutchins on Translating Naguib Mahfouz’s ‘Trilogy’ and ‘Cairo Modern’

The prize organizers’ news release

Meet the winners:

2-4:30 pm on Thursday, Feb 13 at the Meetings Room, Arab British Centre. The event is free, but RSVP to

Or 7 p.m. at The Gallery, Foyle’s Bookshop, 113-119 Charing Cross Road. This time, RSVP to


Categories: Banipal, translation

3 replies

  1. How to start translating books from English to Arabic?

    • You might want to start with short stories first, but the most important thing is to find a work that you’re passionate about translating, that you want to understand & bring into Arabic.


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