The shortlist for the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation 2020 was announced on November 24, 2020.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize is an annual award for published translations from Arabic of full-length works of imaginative and creative writing of literary merit and general interest worth £3,000. Established in 2006 by Banipal Magazine and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, the prize is sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family in memory of his father, a passionate bibliophile. The inaugural prize was awarded on 9 October 2006.

The judging panel for the 2020 edition is chaired by Paul Starkey alongside The Guardian columnist Justine Jordan, writer and activist Nii Ayikwei Parkes, and film director and philanthropist Omar Al-Qattan. This panel announced the five shortlisted novels in the running which are;

  • Trees for the Absentees by Ahlam Bsharat (Palestine) Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp & Sue Copeland Publisher: Neem Tree Press
  • A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me by Youssef Fadel (Morocco) Translated by Alexander E. Elinson Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction.
  • Velvet by Huzama Habayeb (Palestine) Translated by Kay Heikkinen Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction
  • The Old Woman and the River by Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwait) Translated by Sophia Vasalou Publisher: Interlink Books
  • The Egyptian Assassin by Ezzedine C. Fishere (Egypt) Translated by Jonathan Wright Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction.

The panel on the announcement said, “In selecting the shortlist, the judges noted a rich diversity of styles, themes and settings ranging from sprawling cities to humble villages. It was particularly noticeable that several of the works selected for the shortlist revolve around the lives and dreams of ordinary people, providing intimate insights into the societies concerned, which themselves cover the full span of the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq. Writings of this sort pose particular challenges and demand a high level of sensitivity to the subtleties of the original Arabic on the part of the translator. The judges are happy to report that these qualities were in ample evidence not only in the shortlisted works but also in many of the other translations submitted for the prize.”

The winner will be revealed on January 12, 2021, with a ceremony to be held the following month.