Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2011 Nile (formerly Mubarak) Award was not that it went to satirical writer Ahmed Ragab. Instead, it was that Ragab was chosen by a transparent vote.
Ragab thus wins 400,000LE in prize money and the highest Egyptian award for a lifetime contribution to literature.
Ragab is known for his column, “Nuss Kelma” (“Half a Word”) although he was most recently in the news for a controversial political cartoon he created with Mustafa Hussein making fun of Salafis. The cartoon, which ran on the front page of Akhbar al Youm, moved a hacker to take aim at the paper and a
group of Salafis to report Ragab and Hussein to the authorities for “insulting Islam.”
Ragab has also published a number of satirical books, including A Donkey’s Diaries and The Explainitorium.
Meanwhile, State Awards for Literature were awarded to Nubian writer Abdel-Wahab El-Aswany, novelist Fouad Kandil and Ahmed Shams El-Din El-Haggagy, professor of literature at Cairo University. Novelists Khairy Shalaby and Bahaa Taher didn’t think much of these winners.
First place for Excellence in Literature was given to the Nubian novelist Idris Ali, who passed away last November. Two of Ali’s books are available in translation from AUC Press. Second place was withheld, according to Ahram Online, after strong competition between the novelist Mohamed Nagy and poet Hassan Teleb.
State Encouragement awards went to Adel Esmat, for his novel Ayam Al-Nawafez Al-Zarkaa (Days of the Blue Windows), Azza Rashas for her short-story collection Nesf Daw (Half a Light), Mohamed Khattab Zahran for his colloquial poetry collection Ya Sahaba Amtery (You Rain Cloud), and Ahmed Ibrahim for the formal Arabic poetry collection Baynama Nasna Al-Sowar (While We Make Photographs).