Ahmed Ragab, the satirical writer, won the Nile Award, the highest state award for lifetime contributions to literature. Ragab was nominated by the University of Alexandria, the University of Sohag, the University of Mansoura and the University of Banha. His win was criticised by some members of the intellectual community.
For the first time in the history of the Egyptian State Awards, voting this year is the method through which winners have been chosen. The main ballot was conducted yesterday. Previously the choice of winners was through selected committee.
Ragab, who picks up a prize money value of LE400,000, was born in Alexandria on 20 November 1928. His career in journalism started in the 1950s with his first job in the Alexandria office of Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper. His talent was discovered quickly and he moved to the main headquarters in Cairo and became one of its stars before being appointed deputy to the editor of Al-Gyeel magazine and editor for Heya magazine.
Ragab's famous column, "Noss Kelma" (half a word), established him as a master in the field of satirical journalism, creating together with Mostafa Hussein, the caricaturist, memorable characters that depict daily life with all its contradictions. Ragab published many books, the most famous of which include Yawmeyat Homar (Donkey's diaries), Falah Kafr El-Hanadwa (Kafr Hanadwa's farmers), and El-Fahhama (The explainitorium).
The second-highest award, the State Award in Literature, was awarded to a host of writers: Abdel-Wahab El-Aswany, Fouad Kandil and Ahmed Shams El-Din El-Haggagy, professor of literature at Cairo University.
The first Award for Excellence in Literature was given to the late Idriss Ali, while the second was withheld after strong competition between the novelist Mohamed Nagy and poet Hassan Teleb.
The State Encouragement Award was given to several writers as well: Adel Esmat, for his novel Ayam Al-Nawafez Al-Zarkaa (Days of the blue windows), Azza Rashas for her short stories collection Nesf Daw (Half a light), Mohamed Khattab Zahran for his colloquial poetry collection Ya Sahaba Amtery (O Cloud Rain), and Ahmed Ibrahim for the formal Arabic poetry collection Baynama Nasna Al-Sowar (While we make photographs).
The award for modern Arabic genres (one of the State Engouragement award) went to author Gamal El-Askary, and for simplification of the sciences for children, the poet Magdy Issac. The award for linguistic studies and research that went to the late critic Abdel-Hakim Hassan, who died in 2009, raised questions.
Gaber Asfour objected to giving the award to someone deceased, while Minister of Culture Emad Abou-Ghazi said the award was valid since it was designed to be given to a work that is less than three years old, which is the case with the winning book by Hassan.
The four Egyptian State Awards are administered by the Supreme Council of Culture headed by the Minister of Culture Emad Abou-Ghazi, and Secretary General Ezzedine Choukri. Voting was open to members of the council, with 51 members present of 62 eligible voters.