Algerian author Ahmed Taibaoui won the 2021 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature on Wednesday for his novel Ikhtifa’ Al-Sayyed La Ahad (The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody).
The decision was announced by the prize’s judging panel in a Zoom meeting.
The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for literature supports contemporary Arabic literature in translation and consists of a cash prize of $5,000, as well as translation into English and publication under the AUC Press’ fiction imprint Hoopoe.
Taibaoui, who attended the Zoom meeting, expressed his delight over winning such an award, saying, “I can’t believe I’m a laureate of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for literature.”
Taibaoui that that he visited Cairo a year-and-a-half ago and visited Mahfouz’s museum as well as the places that the Nobel-winning writer immortalised in his novels.
“I feel the burden of the prize and the responsibility that it entails now,” he said.
The Algerian writer said that he tried to be the voice of the voiceless when he wrote his novel to put their issues front and centre.
Last month, the AUC Press announced a shortlist for the prize for the first time in its history comprising six titles chosen from 270 novels submitted from across the Arab world and diaspora. The winner of the medal will be announced in March 2021.
The shortlisted novels include The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody by Ahmed Taibaoui (Algeria); In the Dust Cities by Amal Radwan (Egypt); The Fort of Al-Zidi by Algarby Omran (Yemen); The Neighbourhood of Wonder by Maha Hassan (Syria); The Stone in Khallaf’s House by Mohammad Aly Ibrahim (Egypt); and Kohl and Cardamom by Omar Taher (Egypt).
The jury members for this year’s Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature are literary critic and professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University Shereen Abouelnaga (Chair); award-winning translator of Arabic literature into English Humphrey Davies; translator, writer, and critic Thaer Deeb; translator and associate professor of the Arabic language and literature at Rutgers University in the US Samah Selim; and, writer, literary critic, and cultural consultant Heba Sherif.
The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature was established by the American University in Cairo Press in 1996 and is awarded to the best contemporary novel published in Arabic in the previous two years. The winning novel is selected by the five jury members who make up the Mahfouz Award Committee.