2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

The 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Image of Sinan Antoon


The 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is awarded to Sinan Antoon, for his translation of his own novel The Corpse Washer, published by Yale University Press.

Paula Haydar is highly commended for her translation of June Rain, by Jabbour Douaihy, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Publishing Foundation.

The judging panel comprised literary translator and joint winner of the 2013 Prize Jonathan Wright, translator and writer Lulu Norman, broadcaster and writer Paul Blezard, and Banipal editor and trustee Samuel Shimon.  They met in December 2014 to select the winning titles from 17 entries, under the chairmanship of Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors.


 The Judges' Announcement



for the translation of his novel The Corpse Washer

Front Cover of 'The Corpse Washer' "A poetic and profound story that resonates with human pathos"

Heart-warming and horrifying, sad and sensuous in equal measure, The Corpse Washer is the moving story of Jawad, a young Iraqi whose family washes and prepares bodies for burial, and of the fracturing effects of war, occupation and civil strife - on Jawad, his family, his friends and their country. The subject matter is often grim, as befits the tragedies that Iraq has suffered for over three decades, but the meticulous portrayal of the corpse-washing rituals, Jawad's ambivalent feelings about his work and the other world of his nightly dreams, show a gentler, more human side to a world of violence and brutality.

 Thoughtful, precise and consistent in voice and mood, Sinan Antoon comes close, in this translation of his own novel, to the ideal in literary translation - the invisibility of the translator. His fluent and forthright language matches the style and rhythm of his own original Arabic and the unadorned, sometimes affectless tone reflects the hollowness of life as the onslaught of war brings an onslaught of bodies for the corpse washers of Baghdad. The novel ends with Jawad sitting under the pomegranate tree that grows from the water he uses to wash the corpses. A rich, profound insight into an Iraq we hear very little of, this is a story that resonates with human pathos and bears every hallmark of becoming a modern classic.

On being given news of the award, Yale University Press Director John Donatich released this statement

As both translator and author of the novel, Sinan Antoon reacted to the news by saying these words

To read Sinan Antoon's biography, click here



for her translation of June Rain by Jabbour Douaihy

Image of Paula Haydar

Image of Front Cover of 'June Rain'“An astonishing translation which exactly captures the novel’s tone and heft”

The judges very highly commended the masterly translation by Paula Haydar of June Rain by Lebanese author Jabbour Douaihy. This complex story explores the effects – at once  cohesive and corrosive – of family and clan loyalties in a mountain village in northern Lebanon, taking as starting-point a massacre in 1957 and its repercussions throughout the community. Eliyya Kfoury returns there after decades living in the United States to search for the truth behind the murder of his father, which took place before he was born.

Lyrical and at times wistful, Douaihy’s novel, part tragedy, part ‘whodunnit’, is rendered through a kaleidoscope of superb stories and characters. Using multiple points of view, the shifting of time and a cast of beautifully drawn characters, his affectionate, at times humorous, conjuring of Lebanese village life makes June Rain a very rich and rewarding read. Paula Haydar’s astonishing translation exactly captures the tone and heft of an extraordinary novel that tells us so much about sectarianism and its heartbreaking legacies.  

On hearing the news, Head of English Publishing at Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing Thalia Suzuma released this statement

Paula Haydar reacted to news by saying these words

To read Paula Haydar's biography, click here

We celebrate the prize with two events:

Tuesday 24 February
Sinan Antoon talks with Paul Blezard

203/206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD
with Reading and Q&A. Reception.
• This is a free event, but please reserve your place by emailing
Go to the event

Wednesday 25 February
The Award Ceremony of Translation Prizes
from Arabic, French, German, Spanish and Italian
6.15pm for 6.30pm, Europe House,
32 Smith Square, London  SW1P 3EU

Introduced by Paula Johnson, Prize Administrator, the Society of Authors
Prizes presented by Sir Peter Stothard, editor TLS, with readings by the winning translators
followed by author and critic Philip Hensher talking about “Wonderful Translations”
• This is a free event, but please reserve your place by emailing
Go to the event

The award ceremony is hosted by the Society of Authors and the TLS


Published Date - 19/01/2015