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AUC Press Awards Fatma Qandil the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2022

The American University in Cairo (AUC) Press announced today the award of the 2022 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature to the Egyptian writer Fatma Qandil for her novel Aqfas farigha (Empty Cages).

Presented by Ahmad Dallal, president of The American University in Cairo, the award was decided by the members of the Award Committee: 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. The award ceremony held at AUC’s Oriental Hall, Tahrir campus was attended by many writers and other distinguished personalities of Egyptian cultural life.

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. . . Fatma Qandil’s language is sly. As soon as the reader gets close to pinning the work down in a single category, it slips through our fingers. She is a poet after all. . .. In her rich and dense prose, we catch sight of poignant truths, which encompass both hope and disappointment, the weakness of human character and the struggle to resist it, and the pain and pleasure of discovery. . .. Confidently weaving the reader into the psychological texture of intimate and fraught relationships, Qandil tells a story of womanhood, family, and loss, which will stay with the reader long after the final page.”

Consisting of a silver medal, a cash prize of $5,000, as well as translation into English and publication under AUC Press’s fiction imprint Hoopoe, the Mahfouz Medal is awarded to the best contemporary novel published in Arabic in the previous two years.

At the award ceremony, the AUC Press also celebrated the publication of the English translation of the 2021 winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody by Ahmed Taibaoui translated by Jonathan Wright.

The AUC Press, which established the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1996, has been the primary publisher of Naguib Mahfouz’s English-language editions for more than thirty years, and has also been responsible for the publication of some 600 foreign-language editions of the Nobel laureate’s works in more than 40 languages around the world since the author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. With up to 60 new publications annually and more than 800 titles in print, the AUC Press is recognized as the region’s leading English-language publisher.

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Founded in 1919, The American University in Cairo (AUC) is a leading English-language, American-accredited institution of higher education and center of the intellectual, social, and cultural life of the Arab world. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions and study abroad programs. 

The University offers 39 undergraduate, 52 master’s and two PhD programs rooted in a liberal arts education that encourages students to think critically and find creative solutions to conflicts and challenges facing both the region and the world. 

An independent, nonprofit, politically non-partisan, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the United States.