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Professor receives Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature; is on short list for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

miral_al_tahaway_100.jpgBOONE—Appalachian State University Assistant Professor Miral Al-Tahawy has received the 2010 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her book “Brooklyn Heights.” The annual award recognizes the best contemporary novel published in Arabic and is presented by the American University in Cairo Press.

Al-Tahawy teaches Arabic in Appalachian’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.


The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature consists of a silver medal and a cash prize, as well as translation and publication of and English-language edition of Al-Tahawy’s work. It was presented Dec. 11 by the president of the American University in Cairo at a ceremony attended by Egypt’s Minister of Culture and other prominent Egyptian leaders.

Al-Tahawy was born to a Bedouin family in the Egyptian Delta region. As a young woman, she could not leave her home without the accompaniment of a male relative, and she dressed in the traditional head-to-foot covering worn by Bedouin women.

In accepting the award during the Dec. 11 ceremony, al-Tahawy talked about when her first book, “The Tent,” was being translated into English and her brothers would answer the translator’s questions about her novel on her behalf. “I would stand behind the door and eavesdrop on my own stories that were being reinvented,” al-Tahawy told the audience.

Presented by David Arnold, president of the American University in Cairo, the award was decided unanimously by the members of the award committee.

In their citation for the award, the judges described “Brooklyn Heights” as “a novel of displacement and exile par excellence,” and went on to say “’Brooklyn Heights’ is an exceptional account of the relationship between East and West. . . , a humanistic work that represents the individual experience as it intersects with the vastness of a labyrinthine world. . . . It is a text that breaks the silence through an acute understanding of the complexities of time and place, tolerance and intolerance. . . .The author’s heightened sense of attention to detail through character portrayal, language and context, tone and cadence, all contribute to the production of an intensely moving and edifying story.”

“Brooklyn Heights” tells the story of five female Arab immigrants living in Brooklyn as each tries to reconcile the history, religion and culture of their native countries while struggling to survive as a female immigrant in America.

The English translation of the novel is scheduled to be published in 2011 by AUC Press, simultaneously in Cairo, New York and London.

The American University in Cairo Press is the primary English-language publisher of Naguib Mahfouz and has published or licensed some 500 foreign-language editions of the Nobel laureate’s works in 40 languages.

Al-Tahawy also is one of six authors announced as the shortlisted finalists for the
International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2011 for her book “Brooklyn Heights,” which tells the story of the New York’s Arab immigrants and those who live among them through the eyes of a female narrator.

She and the other short-listed authors will each receive $10,000. The winner of the award, to be announced in March 2011, will receive $50,000.

Fadhil Al-Azzawi, who chairs the panel of judges for the competition said, “The shortlist shows the high quality of the modern Arabic novel in its different forms.”

Other books being considered for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction are “The Arch and the Butterfly,” “An Oriental Dance,” “The Hunter of the Chrysalises,” “The Doves’ Necklace” and “My Tormentor.”