Monday, February 06, 2012

khaled mattawa receives saif ghobash-banipal prize for translation of 'adonis: selected poems'

Khaled Mattawa signs a copy of Adonis: Selected Poems after being awarded the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize

The editor of the Times Literary Supplement Sir Peter Stothard this evening awarded the £3,000 Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation to the Libyan poet, translator and scholar Khaled Mattawa for his translation of Adonis: Selected Poems (Yale University Press). The award was made at the annual presentation of translation prizes administered by the Society of Authors held at Kings Place in central London. The ceremony was hosted by the British Centre for Literary Translation, the Arts Council England and the Society of Authors. During the ceremony, which included readings from the winning translations, Sir Peter Stothard was joined on stage by prize administrator Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors.

Mattawa was the first winner to be announced during the awards ceremony, which saw prizes awarded for translation from five langauges. Sir Peter said Mattawa had travelled from Michigan, where he teaches at the University of Michigan, to be at the ceremony but Mattawa said he had in fact travelled from Tripoli where it was snowing like it was in London, and where there were similar problems in coping with the snowfall. Mattawa paid tribute to the Banipal Trust and Banipal magazine "for support over the years, for friendship and for their spiritual companionship". He said he was grateful to Adonis "who was a great source of inspiration." He read from the poem Body, from Adonis's book, Singular in a Plural Form (1975) which is included in Adonis: Selected Poems.

Sir Peter awarded the runner-up prize to Barbara Romaine for her translation of Spectres (Arabic Books) by Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour. Before translating Spectres, Romaine - who teaches Arabic at the University of Villanova in Pennsylvania - had translated Bahaa Taher’s novel Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery, and Radwa Ashour’s Siraaj. She is currently working on another of Ashour’s novels, Farag (first published in Arabic by Dar El Shorouk in 2008), forthcoming from Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP)
.Maia Tabet of Lebanon was commended for her translation of Lebanese writer Elias Khoury's novel White Masks (Archipelago Books).

The Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize is sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and the Ghobash family, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. The judges, who met last December under the chairmanship of Paula Johnson, were novelist, columnist and critic Joan Smith, writer, translator and Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of East Anglia Sarah Churchwell, translator and lecturer in Arabic Literature and Media at the University of Exeter Christina Phillips, and author and editor of Banipal magazine Samuel Shimon who is also a trustee of the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.

Screen showing sponsors of the translation prizes

The other four prizes awarded during the ceremony were the Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from the French, the Schlegel-Tieck prize for translation from the German, the Premio Valle Inclán for translation from the Spanish and the Vondel Prize for translation from the Dutch or Flemish. One of the two runners-up for the Scott Moncrieff Prize was Frank Wynne for his translation of An Unfinished Business (Bloomsbury) by Algerian Boualam Sansal which won several prizes when first published in French in 2008 under the title Le village de l'Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller. As well as being joint runner-up for the Scott Moncrieff Prize, Wynne won the Premio Valle Inclán for his translation from Spanish of Kamchatka by Argentinian novelist Marcelo Figueras.

The Schlegel-Tieck prize was won by Damion Searls for his translation of Comedy in a Minor Key, a story of concealment and courage during the Nazi era written by a German Jewish psychiatrist Hans Keilson whose parents died in Auschwitz. Keilson, who died last June at the age of 101, took refuge with a family in the Netherlands. His novel is based on that experience. Comedy in a Minor Key is published by Hesperus whose managing director Karl Sabbagh, the well-known Palestinian-British author, journalist and TV producer, attended the awards ceremony.

After the awarding of the prizes the renowned multiple prizewinning poet, playwright and critic Sean O'Brien delivered the Sebald lecture given annually on an aspect of literature in translation. Originally known as the St Jerome lecture the lecture was renamed in honour of the founder of British Centre for Literary Translation, the late writer W G Sebald who was killed in a car crash in Norfolk in December 2001. The recent 10th anniversary of Sebald's death lent a special poignancy to this year's lecture. O'Brien had originally entitled his lecture Making the Crossing: The Poet as Translator, but he decided to change it to Making the Crossing: A poet as Translator. His wide-ranging lecture, at one profound and amusing, was based on his experiences of translating poetry and plays and took in references from Baudelaire to Bo Diddley by way of Dante and Aristophanes. He has also jointly with Daniel Hahn of the British Centre for Literary Translation translated the poetry of Cape Verdian writer Corsino Fortes who writes in Portuguese. These translations came about as an initiative of the London-based Poetry Translation Centre.
Susannah Tarbush

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