Poet, short-story writer, and novelist Huzama Habayeb is the winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2017 for her novel Velvet.
Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature and passed on in 2006. In 1996, the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press set up the annual Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, a major award in support of contemporary Arabic literature in translation. The prize would be awarded annually to the best novel published in Arabic but not available in English translation. The award-winning book is subsequently translated and published in an English-language edition by the AUC Press in Cairo, New York, and London.
The winners of the prize have come from all over the Middle East and the northern part of the continent where Arabic is the lingua franca. They include Adel Esmat (2016), Hassan Daoud (2015), Hammour Ziada (2014), Khaled Khalifa (2013), Ezzat El Kamhawi (2012), The Revolutionary Literary Creativity of the Egyptian People (2011), Miral al-Tahawy (2010), and Khalil Sweileh (2009).
This year the Mahfouz Award Committee which chose the winner included Dr Tahia Abdel Nasser, Dr Shereen Abouelnaga, Dr Mona Tolba, Dr Humphrey Davies, and Dr. Rasheed El-Enany.
The winner of the award announced on Monday December 11, 2017 is Palestinian poet, short-story writer, and novelist Huzama Habayeb at the American University in Cairo’s downtown campus.
The novel, her third, tells the story not just of Hawwa, but of other women in the camp, such as the fruit seller’s wife Dorrat al-‘Ayn and Qamar, who makes dresses for the women in the camp. Then, in September 1970, a Palestinian freedom fighter takes refuge in Qamar’s house from the pursuing Jordanian army.
You can read more about the award ceremony here as well as the full address that she gave on winning the prize here.