Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Price/Prize of an (Egyptian) Intellectual

Every year, the Egyptian state gives several prizes to its best intellectuals. In a very democratic way, the local intelligentsia is supposed to select itself its nominates according to rituals which do not contribute very much to the surge of new talents although they show the self-proclaimed celebration of some of the more obedient voices to the regime.

A reality that nobody really denies in fact. For instance, the celebrated Egyptian novelist Baha Tahir confessed he did not feel at ease receiving the “Mubarak prize for literature” being at the same time member of the jury.

But everybody does not share Baha Tahir’squalms about the public generous gifts. The literary critic Gaber Asfour for instance, now in charge of the “National initiative for translation” after he has been almost 15 years the General Secretary of the Supreme Council for culture, an official body who, incidentally, gave him that year one of its prizes, of some 200.000 EP (around 30.000 USD).

But Ahmad Higazi, a poet previously mentioned in this blog, has done better: he gave himself, a few months ago, the prize (100.000 EP) he organized as president of the Poetry commission at the same Supreme Council of Culture!

Fortunately enough, not all Egyptian intellectuals are able to accept anything against the regime gifts. We already mentioned how the scandal provoked by Sun’Allah Ibrahim’s public refusal of a distinction given by a state doing nothing for the Palestinian according to him.(And recently, the Egyptian press has spoken of – useless – pressures from Faruk Husny, the Egyptian minister for Culture, against Sonallah’s participation to a Literary festival in the south of France.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French. Illustration : photo by Joshua Stacher/

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