Fatma Qandil wins Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2022

Fatma Qandil’s Aqfas farigha (Empty Cages) was declared the winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2022 on December 11, 2022.

The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature is a literary award for Arabic literature given to the best contemporary novel written in Arabic, but not available in English translation. The winning book is then translated into English, and published by American University in Cairo Press. Some of the previous winners have been Ahmed Taibaoui (2021), Omaima Al-Khamis (2018), Huzama Habayeb (2017), Adel Esmat (2016), Hassan Daoud (2015), and Hammour Ziada (2014).

The judges for this year’s award were Shereen Abouelnaga, literary critic and professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University; Adam Talib, associate professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University; Thaer Deeb, writer, translator, and critic; Hussein Hammouda, professor of Arabic at Cairo University and Dina Heshmat, associate professor in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations at AUC. They declared Fatma Qandil to be the winner.

In their citation for the award, the judges described Aqfas farigha as “an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the relationships of violence that lie beneath the surface of an ordinary middle-class Egyptian family; relationships of gendered power,” and went on to say: “In this book, the border between fiction and the biography of individuals and communities dissolves, as do the borders between rhetoric and representation, life-writing and art. The book will make you question the normative boundaries between the biography and the novel and re-examine the definitions of both. . .”

The award was presented by Ahmad Dallal, president of The American University at AUC’s Oriental Hall, Tahrir campus, Cairo, Egypt. The event was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life. Qandil wins a cash prize of $5,000, as well as a translation of the winning novel into English and publication under AUC Press’s fiction imprint Hoopoe.