As came out last April, Dr. el Aswany was to be part of the panel selecting the Beirut39, but then withdrew. However, he continues to be part of other literary contests inside Egypt.
The author of The Yacoubian Building tells Al-Masry Al-Youm he has no regrets about his Beirut39 decision, and remains proud of his withdrawal. He says the competition was announced only online, and not through popular media—he says, in essence, the organizers already knew the winners before they began.
Seems like a legitimate critique without knocking the essential quality of the 39. If you’re making a list rather than a competition, just make it a list.
El Aswany goes on to defend Chicago from its critics; no comment on that.
More on Beirut39 from The Arabophile, including the financial considerations of Arabic fiction.