The American University in Cairo Press has recently granted Egyptian author, Fatma Qandil the prestigious “Naguib Mahfouz” Medal for literature for her debut novel “Aqfas Farigha”, which translates to “Empty Cages”.

Qandil is the deputy editor-in-chief of an Egyptian literary criticism magazine, titled “Fuṣūl”, which means “Chapters”. The magazine that’s issued in Arabic mainly focused on critiquing and producing detailed analyses of Arabic literature, but the author also published countless poetry collections and Arabic-translated literature. Prior to that, she used to work in the Arabic department at Helwan university as an associate professor.

The 64-year-old writer expressed her gratitude at the award ceremony, saying that it’s her first time receiving a prize of any kind. The Naguib Mahfouz medal has been awarded every year on December 11 the infamous Nobel winner’s birthday for the past quarter of a century, making Qandil the 25th recipient of such a distinguished award. The prize includes $5,000 in cash, a silver medal, an English translation, and publication under the fiction imprint Hoopoe of the AUC press; it has been given to 10 women and 15 men in total.

The author reflected on a time when she wrote a letter at “Al Ahram” newspaper addressing Naguib Mahfouz, back in 1974 when she was merely a teenager saying that he was her idol and the man of her dreams, to which the author never responded. She happily thanked the Writer for finally recognizing her work as an adult.

Qandil’s book “Aqfas Farigha” was selected out of 153 submissions by the panel as a novel that combined fiction with autobiography. Shereen Abouelnaga, professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University, headed the selection panel, which included Thaer Deeb, a writer, translator, and critic; Adam Talib, associate professor of classical Arabic literature at AUC; Hussein Hammouda, professor of Arabic literature at Cairo University; and Dina Heshmat, an assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic civilizations at AUC.

The AUC Press awards ceremony took place last Sunday, it additionally celebrated the publication of the English translation of the 2021 prize winner “The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody” by Ahmed Taibaoui, translated by Jonathan Wright.

In her speech, the writer dedicated the award to renowned female Arabic writers and youngsters at the beginning of their writing journey, saying “Perhaps this prize will show them that recognition always comes in the end”.

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