BEIRUT: The Banipal Trust for Arab Literature announced the results of the 2013 Saif Ghobash Banipal Arabic Literary Translation prize Thursday.
It was awarded to two translators – William Maynard Hutchins for his translation of Yemeni author Wajdi al-Ahdal’s “A Land without Jasmine” and Jonathan Wright for his rendering of Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan’s “Azazeel.”Established in 2005 by Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, the $5,000 prize is awarded to full-length works of fiction written during or after 1967 and first published in translation the year prior to the award. Entries are judged by four experts, two of whom read the works in the original Arabic as well as in translation.
This year marks the first time that the jury has awarded the prize to two authors outright, rather than selecting a winner and a runner-up. The judging panel consisted of renowned translator Humphrey Davies, playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak and authors Rajeev Balasubramanyam and Meike Ziervogel, and was chaired by Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors. The winning titles were selected from among 21 entries.
The judges hailed Wright’s translation of “Azazeel,” which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, as “a masterful achievement.” The book, which is set is fifth-century Egypt, works on many levels, historical, theological and spiritual, they said, and “the translation is notable for its delicacy and well-judged restraint and deftly captures the feeling of the original.”
Hutchin’s translation of “A Land Without Jasmine” was praised by judges for “creating an enjoyable English read and at the same time preserving the soul of the original.”
Ahdal’s novel, a thriller centering on the disappearance of a university student, Jasmine, is told from the point of view of multiple characters and tackles social and political issues such as sexual representation and corruption in public institutions.
“Altogether a gripping page-turner from a talented writer,” the judges’ announcement read, “superbly translated by William Maynard Hutchins.”
An award ceremony for English translations of novels in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew and Spanish will be held in London Feb. 12, hosted by the Society of Authors and the Times Literary Supplement and introduced by Paula Johnson. Prizes will be awarded by Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS, followed by readings from the winning translators.
A round table entitled “Literary Translation Arabic to English,” hosted by the trust, will take place Feb. 13, introduced by Wright and Hutchins and chaired by professor Yasir Suleiman, and will be followed by readings from both books.