Three Novelists, Poet on Egypt’s 50-member Constitution Committee

On Sunday afternoon, Egypt’s presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi announced names of the 50 member-committee given the job of re-drafting the suspended 2012 constitution:

"Nostalgia" by Mohammed Abla
“Nostalgia” by Mohammed Abla

It should at the very least be a compelling read, as two novelists (correction: three) — Mohammed Salmawy, Haggag Oddoul, and Mossad Abu Fagr, and a poet, Sayed Hegab — are on the committee.

All have other identities: Salmawy is the long-time head of the Egyptian Writers Union, and has been a journalist at state-run Al Ahram and an aide to the Minister of Information; Hegab is also on the High Council of Culture; while Oddoul is also an activist and campaigner for Nubian rights.

Salmawy has several works that he’s composed in English, including Come Back Tomorrow, published by Three Continents Press (1985), Two Down the Drain, published by theThe General Egyptian Book Organization (1993), and Naguib Mahfouz at Sidi Gaber : Reflections of a Nobel Laureate from conversations with Mohamed Salmawy, published by the AUC Press (2001).

Two of Oddoul’s works have appeared in English: Nights of Musk: Stories from Old Nubia, trans. (2005) and My Uncle Is On Labor, trans.  Ahmed Fathy (2008).

Sinai activist and blogger Mossad Abu Fagr is also a novelist; he has previously been arrested because of his blog.

You can read more about Hegab in “Son of a widowed city.”

If you don’t think that’s enough, there’s also Hoda Elsadda, who is a literary scholar and was a judge for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

These four join visual artist Mohammed Abla and director Khaled Youssef on the 50-member committe. Only two members are Islamist, according to historian Abdullah al-Arian: Salafi Bassam el-Zarqa and ex-MB Kamal el-Helbawy, although Ahmed Atteya also notes the presence of MB-sympathetic Doctor’s Syndicate head Khairy Abdul Dayem. Atteya further notes the absence of April 6.

So, all in all, artists have more than twice the representation of Islamists? A strange list.

Artistic alternates, from Ahram Online:

Mohamed El-Makhzengi (his Memories of a Meltdown is available in translation from AUC Press), novelist shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction Ibrahim Eissa, novelist and former diplomat Ezzedine Choukri Fishere (whose IPAF-shortlisted Embrace at Brooklyn Bridge is currently being translated), scriptwriter Waheed Hamid, poet & Supreme Council of Culture’s Ahmed Abdel-Moeti Hegazy, and poet and “representative of the disabled” Salah Abdel-Maqsoud.