Fatma Qandil’s book, Aqfas Farigha, is her first novel.
Sixty-four-year-old Egyptian writer and poet, Fatma Qandil, has won the 2022 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her debut novel, Aqfas Farigha (Empty Cages). Qandil’s book was selected from a pool of 153 submissions this year.
The award dedicated to Egyptian novelist, playwright and Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz, rewards the best contemporary Arabic novel published two years prior. The winning book is translated into English and published by the American University in Cairo Press. The winner is also awarded with a $5,000 cash prize.
On the announcement of the prize, Qandil noted thus: “This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever received a prize. The joy of writing has always been enough for me, but it seems that prizes are delightful in their own way and I’m getting to experience that for the first time.”
Qandil dedicates her book to “young women, including those who are still navigating their own way to the magical world we call writing. Perhaps this prize will show them that recognition always comes in the end.”
The judging panel for the prize includes academics such as Shereen Abouelnaga (chair), Thaer Deeb, Adam Talib, Hussein Hammouda, and Dina Heshmat.
Judge, Deeb, commented in his praise of the work that, “The author draws on difficult life experiences throughout Empty Cages, but by rejecting the memoir form, she is able to excavate the deep wounds of her past through narrative. This is a work in which boundaries disappear: the boundary between fiction and social biography, between discourse and representation, between life, testament and art.”
Qandil was an associate professor in the Arabic department at Helwan University, Cairo, and deputy editor-in-chief of Fusul, a magazine of literary criticism. She is the author of several poetry collections, criticisms and translations.