This morning, PEN America announced that Egyptian novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji was winner of its 2016 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award:
According to PEN America’s Sarah Edkins, the award “honors individual writers who have fought courageously in the face of adversity for their right to freedom of expression.”
Naji has long been a fearless journalist and is currently serving a two-year sentence in Egypt’s Tora Prison for the excerpt of his novel, Using Life, that ran in Akhbar al-Adab magazine. You can read an English translation of the excerpt by Ben Koerber.
Naji will be celebrated at PEN’s annual Literary Gala on May 16 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The Edwin Barbey Charitable Fund, directed by Peter Barbey and Pamela Barbey, are underwriting the new award.
“Free expression is under attack from all sides, whether from autocrats around the globe or elements of our own government,” Barbey said in a prepared statement. “The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award represents a chance to join PEN’s long tradition of championing writers whose voices and art are under threat and to bring their plight to the world’s attention.”
According to the release:
PEN America’s May 16 Literary Gala will also salute Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling with the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award for engendering a love of literature among children worldwide. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and LeeAnne Walters will accept the 2016 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award for their brave efforts to expose the water crisis in Flint, MI. Additionally, the gala will applaud its Publisher Honoree, Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch, for his leadership in the fight against censorship.