Roger Allen wins translation prize for ‘A Muslim Suicide’

BEIRUT: The annual Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation has been awarded to Roger Allen for his translation of “A Muslim Suicide” by Moroccan writer Bensalem Himmich. The prize was announced Wednesday by the Banipal Trust for Arabic Literature.

Humphrey Davies was recognized as runner-up for his translation of “I Was Born There, I Was Born Here,” written by Mourid Barghouti and published by Bloomsbury.

Published by Syracuse University Press, “A Muslim Suicide” follows the life and trials of 13th-century Sufi philosopher Ibn Sab’in as he travels from Muslim Spain to Mecca where he met an untimely end.

“The Arabic original is written in a language not only related to the heritage, but also full of contemplations and Sufi ideas,” the Banipal Trust said in its statement announcing the award.

“It is a major work of translation that impressed all the judges with its remarkable sophistication and ambition, its rich philosophical and literary tapestry, and the seamless way in which it has been translated.”

Allen, a former professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania, has previously translated such luminaries as Naguib Mahfouz, Abdel-Rahman Munif, Youssef Idris and Hanan al-Sheikh. The prize includes a cash award of 3,000 British pounds ($4,813).

The Banipal Trust was founded in 2004 in the United Kingdom with the intention of promoting Arabic literature in English. In addition to the Saif Ghobash translation prize, the trust also publishes Banipal magazine and organizes various literary events.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 17, 2013, on page 16.




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