The Writing Sabbaticals 2020 recipients are:
Ahmed Kamel (Egypt, b. 1981) for the completion of a collection of short stories exploring disappearing professions in Egypt. Titled Ayyam min Hadid (Days of Iron), the book explores the lives of people still practicing these specialized vocations as a family tradition.
Basma Nagy (Egypt, b. 1985) for completing her novel Thol Harr Lilawn Bared (Warm Shade for a Cold Color) in which the protagonist Egyptian-Swedish Yara, traces the journey of the Swedish artist Ivan Aguéli, who traveled to Egypt in the early 20th century and became a Sufi sheikh. His journey seems to intersect with Yara’s reality, reinforcing her feeling of isolation, loss, and loneliness.
Hanaa Metwely (Egypt, b. 1990) for Al-Ghariqat (The Drowned), a novel dealing with oppression and discrimination against women grounded in popular myths in patriarchal rural society in Egypt. The story takes place in a village where the protagonist witnesses suspicious drownings of women, the trafficking of pharaonic antiquities and weapons, and slave trading.
Mina Nagy (Egypt, b. 1987) for a writing project in two parts: The first reflects on the writer’s long-term experience of agoraphobia, and how he coped with it through writing and exploring works by Beckett, Kafka, C. P. Cavafy, and others. The second part takes the form of a diary that brings together memories, thoughts, reflections, and poetry as the writer’s attempt to deal with grief following the sudden loss of his mother.
Rim Mugahed (Yemen, b. 1986) for writing a novel about contemporary Yemeni society being stuck between forces of oppression and ignorance on the one hand, and those of opportunism and exploitation on the other. The novel focuses specifically on women, their worries and fears, and their dangerous paths to attain freedom and self-realization.
Wessal Yousef (Palestine, b. 1988) for the writing of Al-Ramaq Al-Akhir Fi Al-Moutawasset (The Last Breath of the Mediterranean), a travelogue narrating her seven years spent in Tangier. She recounts the experiences she had, while digging into the history of the places she visited and stories of people she encountered, and reflecting on how she overcame social and linguistic barriers.
The projects were selected from over 95 applications from across the Arab world, with the advice of Ahmed Nagy (writer, Egypt), Hussam Hilali (writer, Sudan), Meriam Bousselmi (playwright and researcher, Tunisia/Germany), and Samar Yazbek (writer, Syria).
This edition was part of our project Distinct Voices, which is partially supported by the Federal Foreign Office, Germany.