Gamal Al Ghitani


Egyptian novelist A former carpet designer, Gamal al-Ghitani switched his careers to become one of Egypt's most acclaimed novelists. His work was frequently published in English translations. He was most famous for his 1974 novel 'Zayni Barakat,' a scorching allegorical critique of totalitarianism in which a ruthless Egyptian leader's legitimacy is challenged. Yet, al-Ghitani firmly supported the army since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and defended its ouster of Mohammed Morsi, the elected president, in 2013, despite repressive measures that followed. But as a writer and editor he was also a fervent defender of artistic freedom. He wrote more than a dozen novels, including 'The Zafarani Files,' 'Pyramid Texts,' 'The Book of Epiphanies' and 'The Book of Revelations,' as well as short story collections. In 1969, al-Ghitani joined the staff of the newspaper Akhbar al-Youm and was a correspondent during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. He founded Akhbar al-Adab, a leading literary magazine, in 1993 and was its editor until 2011. In 2013, al-Ghitani was a visiting professor at the Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative at the University of Chicago. He received the Nile Award, Egypt's top literary state honour, in 2015, after having won the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Egyptian National Prize for Literature and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for his novel 'Ren.' Born into a poor family in Sohag, Gamal al-Ghitani grew up in Cairo, was apprenticed to a carpet maker and studied Oriental carpet design at the College of Arts and Crafts. He died of heart and respiratory problems in Cairo.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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