Joint winners for Arabic Literary Translation Prize
The 2022 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation has been won jointly by the late Humphrey Davies and Robin Moger. Davies received the prize for his translation of The Men Who Swallowed the Sun by Hamdi Abu Golayyel, published by Cairo’s Hoopoe Fiction, and Moger was honoured for his translation of Slipping by Mohamed Kheir, published by San Francisco-based Two Lines Press, part of the Centre for the Art of Translation.
The translators share the prize’s £3,000 purse. The judges said: “A joint award seemed the best way to honour two extremely strong novels which each distinguished themselves in different ways: Slipping for its elegance and flow, and The Men Who Swallowed the Sun for the impressive skill and creativity involved in tackling such a dense and complex text written in non-standard Arabic.”
The judges noted that the novels, published in Arabic in 2018, represent “exciting new directions in Arabic literature, both through their divergencies and their surprising synergies, unearthing forgotten, baffling, and painfully absurd histories, broaching the topic of illegal migration, and doing so through narrators who upset, challenge, and force their reader to see the world anew”.
Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s The Men Who Swallowed the Sun is a harsh, gritty tale of migration in pursuit of a better life, moving from Egypt’s Western Desert to Sabha in the South of Libya, across the Mediterranean to Italy.
Its translator Humphrey Davies (1947–2021) was twice before the winner of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation (in 2006 and 2010 – the first and fifth years of the prize) and twice runner-up (in 2010 and 2012), as well as being a judge for the 2013 prize, which has been only other time joint winners have been announced.
Mohamed Keir’s Slipping is also set in Egypt, in the wake of the Arab Spring where we follow the hero, Seif, on a “surreal, disturbing, yet incandescent” journey through his country.
Moger said: “I’m really delighted that Mohamed Kheir’s Slipping has won the translation prize alongside Humphrey Davies’s translation of the wonderful The Men who Swallowed the Sun by Hamdi Abu Golayyel: a pair of magical, strange and exciting narratives that make the happiest bedfellows. I hope this leads more people to read more of both of these authors. Many thanks to the wonderful Two Lines Press, in particular the book’s editor CJ Evans, for making this translation a thing in the world and for making it so beautifully. But the most thanks, of course, go to Mohamed.”
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 prize aims to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature, as well as to honour the important work of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.
The prize is wholly sponsored by the Ghobash family in memory of their father, the late Saif Ghobash, who was passionate about Arabic literature and other literatures of the world.
The Translation Prizes Award Ceremony, hosted by the Society of Authors, will take place on 8 February 2023 at the British Library in London.