Zein Abdel-Hadi, chief of the Egyptian National Library and Archives, has told Ahram Online that he recently presented an investigation memo to Egypt’s prosecutor-general, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud,
requesting an investigation into the alleged smuggling of Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s archive.
Sotheby's auction house in London announced in December that it had a major collection of manuscripts by Naguib Mahfouz for sale. Upon hearing the news, the Egyptian embassy in London stepped in to stop the sale because no one knew the source of the manuscripts, including the late author’s wife and two daughters. The archive includes some of his early writings, an unpublished draft of a novel called Story of Sudan, manuscripts belonging to his last book The Dreams and rare family pictures.
Abdel-Hadi said that even if these manuscripts were privately owned it would still be illegal to send them out of the country without informing the National Library. Manuscripts Law No.8 (2009) gives only two exceptions for manuscripts to travel abroad: for display in galleries or for restoration, and even these exceptions are for a limited time of up to six months.
“The current manuscripts law should be amended because the punishments aren't enough to deter such deals – two years in jail or LE100,000 bail at maximum – while some manuscripts could be harmful to the national security or otherwise more valuable than the bail,” Abdel-Hadi explained.