Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz Medal Releases Its First Shortlist

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Delayed in its jury deliberations amid restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, AUCPress’ prize program releases a shortlist of Arabic-language novels from Egypt, Syria, Algeria, and Yemen.

The Naguib Mahfouz coffeehouse in the Khan el-Khalili souk in Cairo is closed in this shot (June 26) because of spread-mitigation measures in the coronavirus pandemic. Image – iStockphoto: Keladawy

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Shortlisted Work from Four Countries
As many publishing and book awards in the international industry become active this time of year, few have waited 25 years to publish a shortlist.

That, however, is the case with the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, which on Monday (February 8) issued its first shortlist of six titles.

The use of a shortlist, it appears, is a response to the fact that the award program was delayed by restrictions around the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. A note on the program’s page reads, “Due to the unprecedented volume of entries for the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature this year, and the limitations on reviewing those entries imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we regret to announce that the awarding of the Mahfouz Medal—normally scheduled for December 2020—is likely to be severely delayed this year.”

In terms of that volume of entries the program references, organizers say that 270 submissions were made “from, across the Arab world and diaspora.”

And in many cases in the last year, various awards programs have had to send their jurors only digital copies of submissions to read, and many juries have conducted their work on video platforms, with face-to-face meetings and travel impossible.

The jurors this time for the Mahfouz Medal are:

  • Shereen Abouelnaga (chair), literary critic and professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University
  • Humphrey Davies, translator of Arabic literature into English
  • Thaer Deeb, translator, writer, and critic
  • Samah Selim, translator and associate professor of Arabic language and literature at Rutgers University
  • Hebba Sherif, writer, literary critic, and cultural consultant
Naguib Mahfouz Medal 2021 Shortlist

Naguib Mahfouz Medal shortlisted authors and their covers are, from left, Ahmed Taibaoui, Amal Radwan, Algarby Omran, Maha Hassan, Mohammad Aly Ibrahim, and Omar Taher

  • Ahmed Taibaoui (Algeria): The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody
  • Amal Radwan (Egypt): In The Dust Cities
  • Algarby Omran (Yemen): The Fort of al-Zidi
  • Maha Hassan (Syria): The Neighborhood of Wonder
  • Mohammad Aly Ibrahim (Egypt): The Stone in Khallaf’s House
  • Omar Taher (Egypt): Kohl and Caramom

The program expects to announce a winner in March.

The Winner Receives Translation, Publication in English

Named for the late 1988 Nobel-winning Egyptian writer (1911-2006), the Mahfouz Medal program has been in operation since 1996. It’s presented by the AUC Press, the American University in Cairo Press. It carries a cash prize of US$5,000 and a silver medal for its winner along with translation and publication in an English-language edition by the AUC Press in Cairo, New York, and London, under the press’ Hoopoe imprint.

The award honors a contemporary novel published in Arabic–but not yet given an English translation–which has been published in the last two years.

Past winners of the Mahfouz Medal comprise 10 women and 14 men. Twelve Egyptians have won the honor, as have three Palestinians, one Algerian, two Lebanese writers, one Moroccan, two Syrians, one Iraqi, one Sudanese writer, and one Saudi Arabian.

Those past winners are:

The Coronavirus in Egypt

At this writing, the 10:22 p.m. ET (0322GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 170,780 cases in Egypt’s population of 100.4 million, with 9,751 fatalities.

On Monday (February 8), the health ministry reported 567 new cases nationwide and 48 deaths. After appearing to have sustained a sharp upturn in cases in January to near the highs of June and July, the daily rate seems to have eased

China has been reported to be giving 300,000 doses of its vaccines, to inoculate 150,000 people, according to the Egypt Independent. Sinovac has not yet been approved for use in Egypt, while Sinopharm has.

New books displayed on the AUCPress site homepage


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here. More from us on Arabic literature and the industry is here; and more from us relative to books and Egypt is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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