The Banipal Trust for Arab Literature

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Entries can only be submitted by publishers.
They can have been published in English anywhere in the world but must be available for purchase in the United Kingdom via a distributor or on-line.
Entries must have been first published in English translation in the year prior to the award. From the 2012 prize, the closing date for entries for each year is 31 March.

See Rules and Conditions

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Are you a member of our library of modern Arab literature (BALMAL)?

All the 29 entries into the 2015 Saif Ghobash Prize are in the BALMAL library, available for loan to members. Lifetime membership of the library costs just £10 – click here for more details.

To browse online the rich collection of Arab fiction in the BALMAL Library, click here

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A number of the 29 entries into the 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize have been reviewed in issues of BANIPAL magazine.
To read selected book reviews from BANIPAL magazine, posted online, click here

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Society of Authors logo


The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is administered by The Society of Authors

The other 2016 literary translation prizes administered by The Society of Authors are for translation from French, German, French, Spanish and Italian. For more information on the prizes, click here

About The Prize

The Prize
The Society of Authors

The prize is an annual award of £3,000, made to the translator(s) of a published translation in English of a full-length imaginative and creative Arabic work of literary merit published after, or during, the year 1967 and first published in English translation in the year prior to the award. 

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize aims to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature as well as honouring the important work of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world. It was established by Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. The inaugural prize was awarded on 9 October 2006.

The prize is administered by the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom, alongside the other prizes for literary translation from languages that include Dutch, French, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. All are administered by the Society and awarded annually at a joint ceremony hosted by the Society and the TLS and supported by Arts Council England.


Luke Leafgren, winner of the 2018 Prize, and his author Muhsin Al-Ramli were in London on 13 and 14 February 2019 for the Award Ceremony and the Banipal Trust Celebration

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When the prize first started, the original cut-off point for the original Arabic publication was 35 years. As the years went by and as interest in literature from the Arab world increased since the establishment of the prize in 2005, in 2013 the Trust became concerned that the cut-off point would prevent translations of important authors being entered for the only prize in the world for published Arabic literary translation.

After much discussion the Trustees decided to extend the original Arabic publication date to after, or during, the year 1967, widely recognised as a "watershed" year for Arabic literature. "The date of 1967 . . . one of those historical watersheds that not only divide one historical period from another but also call radically into question the very principles by which literary historical periods and thereby the relationships between present and past, are established in the first place." Roger Allen, in Intertextuality in Modern Arabic Literature after 1967. 2014 marked the change in entry requirements.

In 2017 it was decided to introduce a shortlist instead of have "commended", "highly commended" or "runner-up". This was to be announced as soon as possible in December each year. For the 2017 prize, the shortlist was announced on 1 December 2017.

The Dove's Necklace by Raja Alem     The Book of Safety by Yasser Abdel Hafez, translated by Robin Moger     No Knives in the Kitchens of This City by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price     Limbo Beirut by Hilal Chouman, translated by Anna Ziajka Stanton 
The first shortlist of four works was introduced with the 2017 Award 

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In 2015, at the start of its tenth year of awarding prizes for contemporary Arabic literature translated into English, the sponsors, Omar Ghobash and his family, agreed to mark the occasion by extending their sponsorship to establish an annual lecture on literary translation. The inaugural lecture took place on 14 October 2016 at the British Library Conference Centre in London, given by the author, translator and essayist Anton Shammas on Blind Spots: A millennium of Arabic in translation – from Ibn al-Haytham to William Faulkner via Don Quixote. The 2017 and 2018 Lectures were also held at the British Library, 2017's given by Robert Irwin on Tayeb Salh's Season of Migration to the North: 'the most important Arabic novel of the 20th Century' and 2018's given by the poet Adonis on Translation: A Second Act of Creation. Click here for all information about lectures.
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The deadline for entries and publication of works each year is 31 March. For full rules and conditions click here. 


The Society of Authors 
Society of Authors logo for prizes

The Society of Authors is the administrator of the prize. Founded in 1884 "to protect the rights and further the interests of authors", it has over 7,500 members. Its first president was Alfred Lord Tennyson. Among its members have been many prominent writers, including George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, H G Wells, J M Barrie, John Masefield, E M Forster, A P Herbert, and countless contemporary writers. 

Other literary translation prizes administered by the Society are:

  • Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation
  • Hellenic Foundation for Culture Award for Greek Translation (triennial)
  • Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation
  • Bernard Shaw Prize for Swedish Translation (triennial)
  • Vondel Prize for Dutch Translation (biennial)
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Portuguese Translation (triennial)
  • Premio Valle Inclan for Spanish Translation
  • John Florio Prize for Italian Translation (biennial)