The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize announced the shortlist of their 2020 Prize – five books from a total of fourteen entries – including one Moroccan historical novel, one Egyptian thriller, a Kuwaiti war story and two Palestinian novels.

The five shortlisted books are:

A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me by Youssef Fadel (Morocco). Translated by Alexander E. Elinson, the book is a powerful and poetic masterpiece where ordinary people’s dreams play out in a city plagued by government exploitation and crime.  

The Egyptian Assassin by Ezzedine C. Fishere (Egypt). Translated by Jonathan Wright, the revenge thriller about a lawyer-turned-terrorist who is catapulted on a mission through Cairo, Sudan, Paris and Afghanistan.  

The Old Woman and the River by Ismail Fahd Ismail (Kuwait). Translated by Sophia Vasalou, this heart-warming tale explores the story of an old woman who returns to her village despite the consequences of war. The novel was also shortlisted for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Trees for the Absentees by Ahlam Bsharat (Palestine). Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Sue Copeland, the novel traces the story of Philista, an ordinary college student who goes through young love, meddling relatives, heart-to-hearts with friends real and imagined, except that her journey occurs in occupied Palestine.

Velvet by Huzama Habayeb (Palestine). Translated by Kay Heikkinen, this novel won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2017. The story traces the life of a Palestinian woman raised in a refugee camp, learning to survive the camp itself as well as the humiliation and destruction of an abusive family life. Velvet is the story of her resilience and the enduring bonds that make life bearable.


The winner will be named on 11 February 2021.


The Saif Ghobash Banipal 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.

Aimed at raising the profile of contemporary Arabic literature as well as honouring the important work of individual translators, the prize was established by the Banipal magazine and administered by the Society of Authors, UK. The award is sponsored by His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Ambassador and Emirati Author, and his family in memory of his father, the late Saif Ghobash.

Entries for the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is open and the deadline is 31 March 2021. Visit the Society of Authors website for more details.