In an amazing triumph for Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press), Jonathan Wright’s translation of Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk, has been named the winner of the exalted 2016 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, which was established in 2006, is highly recognised in the literary world for its success in raising the profile of contemporary Arabic literature through translations which bring the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.

Fakhri Saleh, Head of Arabic Publishing at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, said:

Translations play a critical role in helping the cross-cultural understanding of different societies and cultures. This book, in particular, is relevant socially as it sheds light on otherwise misunderstood or ignored issues that are sensitive in nature. That it won this year’s Banipal Prize further validates its social significance and literary importance in the Arab world and beyond.’

Saq al Bamboo (The Bamboo Stalk), originally written in Arabic by Kuwaiti author Saud Alsanousi, confronts the universal problems of identity, race and religion through the narrative of the endearing protagonist, José. José is the love child of an idealistic young Kuwaiti writer who dreams about revolutionising the Arab world through his work and a naïve Philippian maid working in the Gulf to provide for her family back home. The only evidence of their tragic affair is José: a young man with a Filipino face, a Kuwaiti passport, an Arab surname and a Christian first name, who is raised in the Philippines but ultimately goes back to his father’s land in search of himself. This ambitious and brave novel won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2013.

Jonathan Wright’s translated version, The Bamboo Stalk, was published by Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press in June 2016 to critical acclaim. The story and the very nuances of the original book were captured perfectly in the translation that ensured English-language readers truly understood the essence of Alsanousi’s story and of the protagonist’s struggle.

Jonathan Wright said:

The book is written in an admirably direct and unpretentious style, relying mainly on the power of the narrative for its powerful emotional effect. I’m delighted by the award, not just for myself but because the novel is a brave, and as far as I know, unprecedented attempt to address through literature, important aspects of Gulf and Kuwaiti society.”

Among his many other translated works, Wright has also translated Taxi by Khaled al-Khamissi in 2012, and Land of No Rain by Amjad Nassar in 2014 which was runner up of the 2015 Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. Wright’s translation of Youssef Ziedan’s Azazeel was named the winner of the 2013 Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, making this year’s win his second overall.

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