Sawiris Awards Committee Expresses Disappointment in Field of Short Stories

"Senior" novel winner Ahmed Sabry Abul-Futuh

The sixth annual Sawiris Cultural Awards were announced this week, with the big 100,000LE “senior writer” prize going to Ahmed Sabry Abul-Futuh for his celebrated novel The Saraswa Epic: Genesis, Volume 1.

The novel was published by Dar Merit in 2009 to much acclaim, and International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) organizers were criticized, by Egyptian authors, for not including it on the award’s longlist.  (Read a review of the winning book.)

Also in the “seniors” category (40+), Mahmoud El-Wardani took the short-story award for his collection A Morning Party, published in 2008. Al-Wardani, who was born in Cairo in 1950, has published a half-dozen novels and four collections of short stories. His Heads Ripe for Plucking came out, in English translation, from AUC Press in 2008.

Although the judges apparently said that the novel decision was easy, Ibrahim Aslan—who sat on the “seniors” committee of judges—said the short story field was thinner. According to Al Ahram Online, Aslan said the collections “lacked coherence.” The winner, A Morning Party, was selected from a field of thirty-five nominees and five finalists.

Meanwhile, the youth novel award (39 and under) went to Al-Taher Sharkawi for his Vanilla (2008). Second place was shared between Manal El-Sayed for The Singing of the Crazy (2008) and Mohamed Maarouf for The Boat Cleopatra (2009).

The youth short stories award went to Mohamed Abdel-Nabi for Anton Chekov’s Ghost (2009), while second place award was shared by Mohamed Khair’s Ghosts of the Radio (2008) and Ahmed Hemdan’s The Delegation (2009).

Al Sharq al Awsat reported that Aslan called the youth decisions “unanimous.” The paper also reported that the awards ceremony began with a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the New Year’s Eve bomb blast in Alexandria.

Previous Sawiris winners have included Reem Bassiouney (for her novel Dr. Hanaa), Tareq Imam (who, as I recall, had to give back his State Incentive Award for The Serenity of Killers because it won 2nd place in the Sawiris contest), Mohamed al-Mansi Qandil (Moon Over Samarqand), Hamdi Al-Gazzar (Black Magic), and Ahmed Alaidy (Being Abbas Al-Abd).

Many of the Sawiris-winning books—including those by Qandil, Al-Gazzar, and Alaidy—have been published in English by AUC Press.