Egyptian Novelist Mohamed Nagui Dies at 68

Egyptian novelist and poet Mohamed Nagui died in Paris after undergoing liver surgery. He was 68:

16754_811990795510507_8927768563492140445_nNagui, who won the Nile Award (formerly State Excellence Award) in 2013, had been ill for several years.

He was born in Gharbiya governorate in 1946 and wrote poetry before turning to novels in the 1990s. His first novel, The Moon’s Secret, published in 1994, is considered by some his best work. He published six more well-received novels between 1994 and 2010, including Morning Song, Travel Night, and Al-Ayaqa, Daughter of Al-Zein.

Although Nagui’s work was poetic, it also took a pointed look at Egyptian society, for instance in his 2008 novel The Effendi, “a criticism of the middle class obsessed with chasing monetary and personal gain even at the expense of the nation and the society.”

In a review of The Effendi, published by Dar al-Hilal, novelist and blogger Ahmed Khalifa writes that:

On the surface, Mohamed Nagui’s The Effendi looks like another one of those anger-laden books about the corruption eating contemporary Egypt from the inside out. But delve deeper into this wonderfully realized piece of literature, and you discover that this novel offers much more than that. Nagui uses the by now cliched template of the Egyptian young man who snakes his way up using unethical short-cuts and sleight-of-hand, and turns it over its head by writing something closer to a modern fairytale.

After his seven novels, Nagui returned to his first genre, with a long poem titled Prayers of Oblivion, which came out from Dar al-Ain in 2011. The work explores Nagi’s difficult journey with cancer.

Nagui received a number of tributes on Facebook, including from novelists Muhammad Aladdin and Ibrahim Abdelmeguid. Ahram Online points out that Nagui’s close friend Mostafa Noureddin wrote on his Facebook page: “Great novelist Mohammed Nagui has died. I was with him from when he had his first surgery in November 2011 until his last moments in 2014. To whom shall I give my condolences? To his family, to his friends, to Egypt? We have lost a noble writer, but for me it is another story.” (Translation by Ahram Online.)

It doesn’t seem that any of Nagui’s work has been translated into English.