Farouk Hosni’s ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ Award Raises Eyebrows

The Sharjah International Book Fair has been a support and a gathering place for many Egyptian publishers and authors. So this award came as a bit of a surprise to some. From the Egypt Independent:

This week, organizers of the Sharjah International Book Fair announced that their 2012 “Cultural Personality of the Year” award would go to Egypt’s former Culture Minister Farouk Hosni.

Hosni is set to receive the award at this year’s book fair, which is scheduled from 7 to 17 November. The prize brings with it 50,000 dirhams.

Egypt is also the guest of honor at this year’s Sharjah book fair, which is one of the largest in the region and generally important to local publishers. Sharjah and Egypt have other cultural ties: Sharjah’s ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed al-Qasimi, has expressed particular interest in Egyptian culture, offering to rebuild the Institut d’Egypte, which burned down late last year.

Yet the announcement of Hosni’s award was a surprise to many in Egyptian cultural circles, as it came just days after Hosni, who was Egypt’s culture minister from 1987 through January of 2012, was charged with corruption and referred to a criminal court.

Book fair officials did not comment on their judges’ choice, which, in the words of novelist Mansoura Ezz Eldin, is “surrounded by question marks.”

Egyptian novelist and columnist Khaled al-Berry said he generally does not comment on prizes or acclamations, because he believes that they are “a panel decision. I look at it like a private property and you can do whatever you want with it.”

However, this was a bit different, he said, and “quite shocking, least of all because Dr. Farouk Hosni has not had the slightest chance to contribute to culture [in the last year], well or otherwise. So it seems to me like a politically motivated choice — a message to the regime in Egypt rather than a cultural celebration of the person himself. That’s unfortunate to say the least.” Keep reading.

Also, Gamal al-Ghitani talks about Farouk Hosni and the Ministry of Culture, among other things, in a very interesting long interview with Ahram Online: Politics dominate literature in post-revolutionary Egypt.” Some nice photos, too.

And, if you haven’t seen it, another interesting piece from Ola al-Saket on EI: “Artists remain skeptical about free expression after meeting with Morsy”