Hassan Blasim's God 99 is shortlisted for the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize

Comma Press are pleased to announce that Hassan Blasim’s debut novel God 99, translated by Jonathan Wright, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation!  


Each year, the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize provides a welcome opportunity to explore and discuss the enormous repertoire of literary works that vividly represent the creativity of writers across the various regions of the Arabic-speaking world, and to evaluate the relative merits of translations of a sample of that creativity that are published for the English-language readership.


The judges in this 16th year of the Prize are:

Roger Allen (Chair), Professor Emeritus of Arabic & Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania • Rosemarie Hudson, Founder Publisher, HopeRoad Publishing • Ronak Hosni, Professor of Arabic and Translation Studies at the American University of Sharjah • Caroline McCormick, Director, Achates Philanthropy 

The shortlisted works are:

Voices of the Lost by Hoda Barakat (Lebanon)
translated by Marilyn Booth
Publisher: Oneworld

The Girl with Braided Hair
 by Rasha Adly (Egypt)
translated by Sarah Enany
Publisher: Hoopoe Fiction

A Bed for the King’s Daughter
 by Shahla Ujayli (Syria)
translated by Sawad Hussain

Publisher: Center for Middle Eastern Studies/University of Texas Press

The Frightened Ones
 by Dima Wannous (Syria)
translated by Elisabeth Jaquette
Publisher: Harvill Secker

by Hassan Blasim
translated by Jonathan Wright
Publisher: Comma Press

The 2021 Winner will be announced by the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature on 12 January 2022. The Award Ceremony, which includes all the translation prizes, and is hosted on Zoom by the Society of Authors, will take place on 10 February 2022, with a Banipal celebration being held, also online, the following week, in partnership with Arts Canteen (details to be confirmed).




The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation 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 published after, or during, the year 1967 and first published in English translation in the year prior to the award. The prize aims to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature as well as honouring the important role of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.

It was the first prize in the world for published Arabic literary translation into English and was established by Banipal, the magazine of modern Arab literature in English translation, and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature. The inaugural prize was awarded on 9 October 2006 and won by Humphrey Davies, the highly respected literary translator whose death from cancer on 12 November 2021 is deeply mourned.




Chess-playing people-traffickers, suicidal photographers, absurdist sound sculptors, cat-loving rebel sympathisers, murderous storytellers... The characters in Hassan Blasim’s debut novel are not the inventions of a wild imagination, but real-life refugees and people whose lives have been devastated by war. Interviewed by Hassan Owl, an aspiring Iraq-born writer, they become the subjects of an online art project, a blog that blurs the boundaries between fiction and autobiography, reportage and the novel. 


Framed by an email correspondence with the mysterious Alia, a translator of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, the project leads us through the bars, brothels and bathhouses of Hassan’s past and present in a journey of trauma, violence, identity and desire. Taking its conceit from the Islamic tradition that says God has 99 names, the novel trains a kaleidoscopic lens on the multiplicity of experiences behind Europe’s so-called ‘migrant crisis’, and asks how those who have been displaced might find themselves again.


'Blasim is perhaps the closest thing we have to an authentic Iraqi voice in contemporary fiction.' - The Guardian


Buy God 99 direct from our website here, and available in all good bookshops.