Egyptian Novelist Tareq Imam Wins $2,000 Prize for 100-word Story

The “Museum of Words” has announced the winners of this year’s international flash-fiction competition, which accepts stories in Spanish, English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Young Egyptian novelist Tareq Imam (@tareqimam1) won the Arabic category with his short-short “An Eye”:

From the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
From the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Imam — also sometimes Tarek Emam — published his first collection of short stories in 1995, when he was just 18. Since then, he has published several more short-story collections and novels; his most recent was My Father’s Shrine, out this summer from Dar Al-Ain.

Imam has previously received awards from the Sawiris Foundation and State Incentive awards; he was also selected for an International Prize for Arabic Fiction nadwa.

A translator’s name is not given on the release (for what is a very, very rough translation), but:

An Eye

Once, I found an eye thrown out in one of the streets, a real one. Even when I leaned and grabbed it gently I touched its tears. I was still able to see the eye certainly different from the sincere eyes scattered on the sidewalks of Cairo. I took it, carefully as not to burst it, looking for someone to give it to. I was looking at it sideways, and saw it contemplating the defeated city, faceless looking with it, without a neighbour who accompanied it to see with it. At the end – my palm got tired, attentive and charged with it – I squeezed it violently, until I felt the world was darkened before it. On this day especially, I met many people who lost everything except their eyes, and only at home, I remembered that one day, I lost an eye.

I hope Imam’s lovely story was not judged entirely on this translation’s basis. The original:


     ذات مرة، وجدت عيناً ملقاة في أحد الشوارع، حقيقية.. حتى أنني عندما انحنيت والتقطتها برفق تلمستُ دموعَها.

    كانت ما تزال قادرة على النظر.. عين تختلف بالتأكيد عن تلك العيون المصفاة المتناثرة على أرصفة القاهرة.

    ظللت أحملها بحرص كي لا أفقأها، باحثاً عن شخصٍ أهديها له.

     كنت أسترق النظر إليها، فأراها تتأمل المدينة مهزومة، دون وجه يرى بها، دون جارةٍ تشاركها النظر.

    في النهاية ـ وكانت كفي الحريصة المثقلة بها أتعبتني ـ اعتصرتُها بعنف، حتى شعرت بالدنيا تظلم أمامها.

    في ذلك اليوم بالذات، قابلتُ أشخاصاً  كثيرين فقدوا كل شئ، إلا عيونهم، وفقط في البيت، تذكرت أنني ذات يوم، فقدت عيناً.

“An Eye” and other winners were selected from 36 finalists, which were previously selected from among the 22,571 stories received from 119 countries. The finalists were selected by a “technical jury” composed of 20 professors and literature teachers, according to the news release.

Note that I previously said the story was 143 words, but, duh, that’s the organizers’ English translation. The original story was a precise 100.