Why is Ibrahim Farghali’s Novel Being Prevented from Entering Egypt?

Nearly two years after its initial publication, Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Farghali‘s Sons of Gabalawy has been prevented from (re)entering Egypt.

Dar al-Ain publisher Fatima al-Boudi told the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression that, when she tried to ship back copies of the novel following spring book fairs in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Casablanca, the book was prevented from entering the country. She was not given a reason.

This is despite the fact that the novel has been circulating in Egypt since the summer of 2009, after being published in one of Egypt’s “free zones.”

Sons of Gabalawy takes as its jumping-off point Naguib Mahfouz’s controversial and much-banned Awlad Haratna, or Children of the Alley. The 1959 novel sparked a fatwa against Mahfouz, and years later that fatwa inspired an assassination attempt against Egypt’s only Nobel Prize-winning author.

Al-Boudi suggested that Farghali’s novel had attracted censors’ attention because it addresses censorship and the cultural poverty of the Egyptian regime.  The novel has, meanwhile, been critically acclaimed, and it was a surprise to many that the book did not make the longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

While censorship has been largely rolled away in Tunisia following the overthrow of Ben Ali, book-banning offices—which check imported books—remain in place in Egypt. Egyptian Minister of Culture Emad Abou-Ghazi has said that he would not issue a decision canceling censorship. That, he said, was the job of the People’s Assembly.

Despite this, Farghali wrote on his blog, hopefully:

  للاسف يبدو ان هناك قوى لا تزال تعيش في اوهام الماضي
لكني اعتقد ان مصر الجديدة لا يمكن ان تقبل بمثل هذه القيم التي تعيشت على الديكتاتورية والاستبداد حتى اصبح عفنها جليا للجميع الان

This is not Sons of Gabalawi’s only brush with book-banning: The book was also banned from last year’s Kuwait Book Fair. However, al-Boudi told Al Ahram that Kuwaiti booksellers had ways of obtaining the book, and that the novel was the subject of “more than one seminar” at the fair. Farghali currently lives and writes in Kuwait.


“Sons of Mahfouz,” by Youssef Rakha

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Buy the book:

From Neelwafurat.

Farghali in English:

The Smiles of Saints was translated by Andy Smart and Nadia Fouda-Smart. Read a review from MA Orthofer at The Complete Review.