Banipal Translation Prize Announces 2020’s 5-book Shortlist

Today, the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation announced the five-book shortlist for their 2020 prize:

The shortlist showcases a wide range of titles, from a Moroccan historical novel to an Egyptian thriller to a tender Kuwaiti war story to two novels from Palestine, one written for teens. A majority of the books, this year, were published by AUC Press’s Hoopoe Fiction imprint. Only one previous Banipal Translation Prize winner, Jonathan Wright, was on the shortlist.

The five shortlistees are:

Trees for the Absentees by Ahlam Bsharat (Palestine)
Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp & Sue Copeland

Publisher: Neem Tree Press

A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me by Youssef Fadel (Morocco)
Translated by Alexander E. Elinson

Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction (an imprint of AUC Press)

Velvet by Huzama Habayeb (Palestine)
Translated by Kay Heikkinen

Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction (an imprint of AUC Press)

The Old Woman and the River by Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwait)
Translated by Sophia Vasalou

Publisher: Interlink Books

The Egyptian Assassin by Ezzedine C. Fishere (Egypt)
Translated by Jonathan Wright

Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction (an imprint of AUC Press)

Organizers wrote, in a prepared statement:

In selecting the shortlist, the judges noted a rich diversity of styles, themes and settings ranging from sprawling cities to humble villages. It was particularly noticeable that several of the works selected for the shortlist revolve around the lives and dreams of ordinary people, providing intimate insights into the societies concerned, which themselves cover the full span of the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq. Writings of this sort pose particular challenges and demand a high level of sensitivity to the subtleties of the original Arabic on the part of the translator. The judges are happy to report that these qualities were in ample evidence not only in the shortlisted works but also in many of the other translations submitted for the prize.

There were fourteen titles in competition for the prize this year, including books that have been selected for other honors: Sahar Khalifeh’s Passage to the Plaza, translated by Sawad Hussain, was shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards, while Ibtisam Azem’s Book of Disappearance, translated by Sinan Antoon, was chosen as a “One Book, Many Communities” title.

This year’s judges are translator Paul Starkey (Chair), Guardian fiction editor Justine Jordan, author and publisher Nii Ayikwei Parkes, and director and philanthropist Omar Al-Qattan.

The winner is set to be announced on January 12, 2021, with a ceremony to be held the following month.