Who Can Make the Biggest Prize for Translators?

A few months after Qatar announced prizes totalling $1M for translators, Sharjah announced their own $550K prize at the annual international book fair:

sibfThe new “Sharjah Award for Translation,” to be given for a book-length translation from Arabic to any other language, makes for a larger lump sum than the Qatari prize, which is split up into several prizes. The largest of the Qatari prizes is $100,000.

However, the Qatar prize totals $1M, while the Sharjah Award totals (a measly) two million dirhams, or approximately $550,000.

The Sharjah award, set up in collaboration with Air Arabia, is set to be supervised by the Sharjah Book Authority.

Both of the new awards make a political gesture. The Sharjah Award for Translation was created as part of efforts to promote the Arabic culture and language,Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad al Qasimi said at the book fair’s opening, but also to “put out the fire of sedition and raise the flag of knowledge.” The Qatar award, meanwhile, is called an award not for literary excellence, but for “International Understanding.”

There is already a controversialCustodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Award for Translation” in Saudi, which promises to dole out a million dollars each year in five different categories, with a focus on academic translations.

These prizes are impressive, but whether they do anything to build translation capacity or excellence is doubtful.