Roger Allen wins Saif Ghobash Banipal Arabic Literary Translation Prize

Logo of Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Bensalem Himmich and Roger Allen
Bensalem Himmich and Roger Allen

Roger Allen
 is the winner of the 2012 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for his translation of A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich, published by Syracuse University Press

Humphrey Davies is the runner-up for his translation of I Was Born There, I Was Born Here by Mourid Barghouti, published by Bloomsbury. 

The four judges, who met in December under the chairmanship of prize administrator Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors, are the poet, author and broadcaster Ruth Padel; short-story writer, novelist and author of Hideous Kinky Esther Freud; Iraqi poet, novelist, critic and literary translator Fadhil al-Azzawi; and John Peate who is a translator, university teacher and researcher based in the UK. They were pleased to see so many books from so many different Arabic-speaking cultures and countries being translated into English and discussed many important issues and questions before agreeing unanimously on the winner and runner-up.

A Muslim Suicide, winner of 2012 Saif Ghobash Banipal Translation Prize

"A highly challenging, yet deeply enriching read . . . a major achievement"

A Muslim Suicide is a highly ambitious and erudite work that opens up remarkable historical, cultural and religious perspectives on the Islamic heritage. It is a highly challenging, yet deeply enriching read in its English translation. This is chiefly due, however, to the immense insight and long and hard-earned cultural and linguistic awareness of its translator. It is very hard indeed to imagine anyone besides Roger Allen capable of bringing this serious book alive to English readers. All those able, even briefly, to browse a little of the Arabic original would quickly recognize the translation as a major achievement.

The Arabic original is written in a language not only related to the heritage, but also full of contemplations and Sufi ideas. The author enables us to accompany the main hero of the novel in his long journey across different cities and countries from Spain to Mecca, letting us get in touch with different dimensions of Arabic history, poetry, Islamic religion and heritage. In this work, Roger Allen shows us in how utterly fine and deep his linguistic awareness is: he succeeded with his wonderful style not only in turning Himmich's text into brilliant English prose, but also in creating a real piece of literature – this fascinating historical novel. 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.

Monday 4 February

The Award Ceremony of Translation Prizes
from Arabic, Dutch/Flemish, French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish

King’s Place
90 York Way, London N1 9AG


Readings by the prizewinners
Prizes presented by Sir Peter Stothard
and the Sebald Lecture on the Art of Literary Translation
Boris Akunin on “Paradise Lost: Confessions of an apostate translator”

To book your seat click here! (Price: £9.50)


Tuesday 5 February

Roger Allen – Masterclass on Arabic Literary Translation
10.00am to 1.00pm
Meeting Rooms & Library, The Arab British Centre
1 Gough Square
London EC4A 3DE

For more information about the Masterclass email

Prizewinner Roger Allen in conversation with Bensalem Himmich, author of A Muslim Suicide
Chaired by Paul Starkey, chair of the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature
Followed by Reception
The Mosaic Rooms
Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road
London SW5 0SW

This is a free event, but seats are limited so do please RSVP here to book your place.

For all information, click here

Published Date - 23/01/2013