Egypt’s State Arts and Culture Awards were awarded Saturday, and novelist Gamal al-Ghitani won the top literature prize, now called the Nile Award:
Ahram Online did live coverage of the awards, following as Supreme Council on Culture members determined 52 prizes worth a total of 7 million LE, or around $1 million US. Prizes are given in art, literature, and social sciences.
This year, as AO reported, voting was digitalized for the first time, although there was some kerfuffle over it, as not all members had been trained in how to use the devices.
The Excellency Awards in Literature, which carry a prize of 100,000LE and a silver medal, were awarded first among literature prizes. They went to Abdel-Nasser Hassan, the former CEO of the Egyptian Library and Archives Institute, and playwright Bahig Ismail.
Next came the three Appreciation Awards in Literature, which carry a prize of 200,000LE and a gold medal. They went to poet Hassan Teleb, novelist Ahmed El-Sheikh, and novelist Fawzia Mahran.
Finally, the top prize — the 2015 Nile Award, which is worth 400,000LE and a gold medal — went to well-known novelist Gamal El-Ghitani.
El-Ghitani’s most celebrated work is Zayni Barakat, translated into English by Farouk Abdel Wahab. El-Ghitani’s witty Zafarani Files, also translated by Abdel Wahab, was longlisted by the Best Translated Book Award in 2010, and is also a worthy read.
El-Ghitani has been part of the state cultural apparatus and also its occasional critic, and has been broadly supportive of the army’s role since 2013.
He is also a widely regarded author, with his Zayni Barakat cited as an influence by world writers such as Amitav Ghosh. Edward Said, according to Ahram Weekly, once said that, “The finest, leanest, most steely Arabic prose that I have either read or heard is produced by novelists (not critics) like Elias Khoury and Gamal El-Ghitani. … Each of whose prose is a razor-sharp Aristotelian instrument the elegance of which resembles Empson’s or Newman’s.”