Friday Finds from Sawiris Winner Mohamed Rabie: ‘Naguib Mahfouz, The Man We All Wronged’

Egypt’s Mada Masr continues its innovative arts-and-literature coverage with an essay from Sawiris-prize-winning Mohamed Rabie, “Naguib Mahfouz, the man we all wronged“:

Naguib-Mahfouz.previewRabie, who recently won the 2016 Sawiris Prize for his International Prize for Arabic Fiction-shortlisted novel Otared, in the prize’s “emerging writer” category, writes in Mada about Naguib Mahfouz’s literary works and their relationship with Egyptian readers (and non-readers).

Rabie’s essay leaps around in time and opens in 1988:

As usual I sat at the front, close to the blackboard because I’m short-sighted, and to the left, so the teacher’s body wouldn’t hide what he wrote.

Rabie is in the classroom, just after Mahfouz has won the Nobel, and the children ask the teacher about it:

He said that Naguib Mahfouz was an atheist Egyptian writer who did not believe in God and that he had written an atheist, infidel book, which said “God has died” on the first page. He didn’t tell us the title of the book, of course, fearing that we would read it and be tempted, and none of us asked for further details because of his excessive harshness and the idea of Mahfouz-ian heresy that was deserving of execution.

Keep reading Rabie’s essay, either as it originally appeared in Mada Masr or in translation by Ahmed Bakr.

Also note: This week, Sawiris prizes in the “senior writer” category went to novelist Ibrahim Farghali and short-story writer Ahmad Al-Khamissi. The emerging author short-story prize went to Ahmed Magdy Hammam for Gentlemen Prefer Lost Causes.

The emerging authors’ prize, granted by the Sawiris Foundation, is 80,000LE (approximately $4,300 US) for first place and 50,000LE (approximately $2,700 US) for second. This is in contrast to the single 150,000LE “established authors” award in each category.