Lesson from Egypt: How to Reject A Literary Prize

by Ali Gharib

British writer Ian McEwan took a lot of heat for accepting the Jerusalem Book Prize. The literary award is given out every two years at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, an event that appears to be put on by the Jerusalem municipal government.

In response to British writers who criticized his decision to accept the prize, McEwan wrote (with my emphasis):

I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.

But there are ways to do both: reject the prize and dialogue and engage, though it may not be to the liking of those who have awarded you the honor.

The lesson comes from Egypt, naturally. I discovered this by finally getting to the back of the book of the February issue of Harper’s. It’s from a retrospective review of two Egyptian writers, Albert Cossery and and Sonallah Ibrahim.

Continue reading “Lesson from Egypt: How to Reject A Literary Prize”

%d bloggers like this: