Cairo Street to be Named for Novelist Gamal al-Ghitani

According to Ahram Online, the Cairo governorate will name a street in the al-Gamaliyya neighbourhood after novelist Gamal al-Ghitani:

ghitaniThe novelist, who’s been in a coma for more than a month, was born in the Gamaliyya neighborhood.

According to AO, seventy-year-old al-Ghitani remains in a military hospita and has shown no signs of improvement. Al-Ghitani reportedly suffered a heart attack in August and was deprived of oxygen, which led to significant brain damage. He has been at al-Galaa Military Hospital on life support.

The street will have its name changed from “Dabbabya” to “Gamal al-Ghitani,” according to AO. It connects two key streets in Islamic Cairo: El-Moez and Gamaliyya.

Al-Ghitani was this yar’s winner of the Nile Award, Egypt’s largest state-funded literary prize. Over his lifetime, he produced several short-story collections and more than a dozen novels, most prominently the classic Zayni Barakatwhich was translated by the late Farouk Abdel Wahab, and named one of the Arab Writers Union’s “Top 105” of the 20th century.

His complete works were released late last year.

In addition to his work as an author, al-Ghitani was also founder and director of the influential literary newspaper Akhbar al-Adab. He launched it in 1993 and remained the editor-in-chief until 2011. He was also the University of Chicago’s fall 2013 Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative visiting “professor of practice.”

Al-Ghitani was born in Sohag, in upper Egypt, in 1945. According to Arab World Books, he wrote his first story in 1959 at the age of 14. He was apprenticed as a child to a carpetmaker, and later worked in one of the Khan el-Khalili factories, but in 1969 he found work at the news desk of the daily paper Akhbar el-Youm. He worked as a war correspondent before settling into a more literary niche.

Critic Samia Mehrez has called al-Ghitani “the silent ironist par excellence.” 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.”

Several of al-Ghitani’s works are in English translation: Zayni Barakat (trans. Farouk Abdel Wahab,), The Zafarani Files (also trans. Abdel Wahab,), The Mahfouz Dialogs (trans. Humphrey Davies), Pyramid Texts (also trans. Davies), and The Book of Epiphanies (trans. Abdel Wahab,), among others.

The Zafarani Files was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in 2010.” His novel Le Livre des Illuminations (1990), or Kitab al-Tajalliyat, was awarded the Laure Bataillon Prize in 2005 for the best work of fiction translated into French that year. In 2006, he received the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour for his collection of stories Schegge di fuoco.

Al-Ghitani also won the French Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987, as well as several other awards.

Read online:

“Naguib Mahfouz’s Childhood,” from The Mahfouz Dialogs (trans. Humphrey Davies), 2007.

“Annihilation,” from Pyramid Texts (trans. Humphrey Davies)

“The Crop” (trans. Mohammed Shaheen)

“Mystery Woman” (trans. Paul Starkey)


Gamal El-Ghitani: A scent of history

Open letters:

Al-Qahira has published three open letters from al-Ghitani’s wife, the author Magda al-Guindy.