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Applications Open for Third Khairy Shalaby Award

Applications have opened for the third annual literary competition in honour of the late Egyptian writer Khairy Shalaby (1938-2011).

As in previous years, his family announced the new cycle of the award on Shalaby’s birthday, January 31. The name of the winner will be disclosed on September 9, the eleventh anniversary of his death.

Khairy Shalaby was one of the most prominent and prolific writers in the Arab world. He left more than 70 diverse literary works, distinguished by a mixture of reality and myth, historical fantasy, and magical realism inspired by folk fiction.

His awards included the First Class Medal of Science and Arts in 1981, and the State Appreciation Award in Literature in 2005. He received the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2003 for his novel “The Lodging House”.

This year’s competition is named for his daughter Iman Khairy Shalaby, who died last year after a long illness.

Applications are open until April 30. Submissions must not have been published in paper form or electronically, or be under publication. Only Egyptians may enter the competition but there is no age limit.

“The philosophy of crowning the first literary work for whoever wins the competition comes in line with Khairy Shalaby’s keenness during his lifetime to encourage and support new talents.”

Hatem Hafez
A novelist and one of the organizers of the Khairy Shalaby competition.

Encouraging New Talent

According to the Egyptian novelist Hatem Hafez, one of the organizers, restricting the award to previously unpublished work is in line with Khairy Shalaby’s wish to encourage and support new talents.

Hafez told Al-Fanar Media young or new writers often experience “long obstacles” before being published. The “Khairy Shalaby’s Novelist and Storytelling World” award therefore includes publication of the winner’s first work.

Several publishing houses have been keen to collaborate with the award since its launch in 2020. Battana Publishing House published “The Hour After Zero” by the first winner, Rania Labboudy, who was then 24.

Al-Shorouk House published last year’s winner, “Al-Naqshbandi“, by Rahma Ziaa, an imagined biography of the famous Sufi vocalist, Sheikh Syed Naqshbandi.

The Judges Committee changes every year and includes prominent writers and critics, whom Hatem Hafez describes as Khairy Shalaby’s fans. Previous members included the writers Ibrahim Abdel Majid, Ibrahim Al-Wardani, Ibrahim Farghali, and Miral Al-Tahawy. The judges have not yet been named for this year’s award.

New Editions of Shalaby’s Works

The announcement of the new cycle of the Khairy Shalaby Award coincided with the release of new editions of five of his novels during the fifty-third Cairo International Book Fair. The fair ran from January 28 to February 7 and attracted 91,000 visitors on the first day.

“Khairy Shalaby was wronged for a long time and he did not get the status he deserved. He was prolific, with a diversified production, but he was not preoccupied with the spotlight, and he was isolated from cultural circles.”

Hatem Hafez 

The five novels are: “The Belly of the Cow”, “Nana’ Al-Janain”, “Mawal al-Bayat wa al-Num”, “Manamamat Amma Ahmad al-Sammak” and “Al-Arawi”.

According to Hatem Hafez, Al Karma publishing house contacted the family of Khairy Shalaby about reprinting seven novels, whose contract terms with other publishing houses had expired. Al Karma will release the other two, “Al-Shattar” and “The Journeys of Al-Tarshaji Al-Halluji”, later.

Hafez, who is editor-in-chief of Al-Funun magazine, says the new editions include two works by Shalaby which are long out of print: “Batn al-Baqara” and “Manna’ Al-Janinin”. He describes the latter as “one of the most creative things that Khairy Shalaby wrote.”

Hafez said the release of the new editions “was a kind of poetic justice. Khairy Shalaby has been wronged for a long time, and has not been given the status he deserved. He was prolific, diversified in production, but he was not preoccupied with the spotlight, and was isolated from cultural circles.”

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He added: “In the last years of his life he was very happy when a reader recognized him on the street and talked to him about one of his novels. Therefore, the accompanying interest in his works years after his departure proves that distinguished literature has a long life.”

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By: Mona Abu Al-Nasr

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