Khalil Sweileh Wins Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature
Syrian-born writer Khalil Sweileh was awarded the 2009 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his novel The Scribe of Love during an award ceremony held at AUC’s Oriental Hall last December.
“I have mixed feelings about winning this award,” said the 50-year-old author, in a brief interview with the AUC Press, following the event. “I am happy and worried at the same time. This award gives the novel and the author some security, but it also creates pressure and expectation about what comes next.”
The English translation of The Scribe of Love is scheduled for 2010 and will be published by the AUC Press as part of its Arabic Literature publications.
“This is a truly intelligent novel,” said Samia Mehrez during the 14th Award Ceremony, speaking on behalf of the Award Committee, officially announcing Khalil Sweileh as the 2009 recipient. “[He] seduces his readers through multiple narrative ruses into the labyrinth of writing, where they finally discover that they were not reading a novel but rather a novel about writing a novel.”
The other members of this year’s Award Committee were Abdel Moneim Tallima, Hoda Wasfy, Fakhri Salah, Gaber Asfour, Mohamed Berrada, and Mark Linz, director of the AUC Press.
Hosted by the American University in Cairo Press, the ceremony was attended by distinguished writers and guests of Egypt’s cultural community, previous recipients of the Medal, American ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey, AUC provost Lisa Anderson, friends of the AUC Press, and most members of the Award Committee.
“The Naguib Mahfouz Medal is one of the most distinguished literary awards in the Middle East,” said scholar and critic Rasheed El-Enany, in his opening remarks as he delivered the Naguib Mahfouz Memorial Lecture that preceded the award ceremony.
The AUC Press established the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 1996. “This independent award was established to recognize and promote talented writers of the Arab World,” said Mark Linz. The annual award consists of a silver medal, a cash prize of US$1,000, and the English translation and publication of the novel by the AUC Press. Previous recipients of the medal include nine Egyptians, two Palestinians, one Lebanese, one Algerian, one Moroccan, and one Iraqi.
Naguib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, passed away in August 2006. When the Mahfouz Medal was inaugurated, the laureate said: “The announcement of this award honoring writers and literature in the Arab world is the most pleasurable event on my birthday.”
The AUC Press is the publisher of 38 Naguib Mahfouz English-language editions, and has contracted more than 500 other foreign-language editions on behalf of the Nobel laureate in 40 languages. Click here to browse and buy online the Naguib Mahfouz titles.
Click here to view photos of this year’s award ceremony and lecture.
Khalil Sweileh is the author of three other novels: Express Mail (2004), Do Not Blame Me (2006), and Zuhur, Sara, and Nariman (2008). He was born in Hasaka, Syria, and graduated from Damascus University in 1986 with a degree in literature. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the Syrian Tishrin Cultural Supplement, and the literary correspondent of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar.