When it comes to Arabic literature, a few names always stand out; Mahfouz, Ghitany, Hussein, Idris. When it comes to the Arabic short stories, the list can be shortened to include just one name: Idris.
Youssef Idris is Egypt’s, and the Arab world’s most prolific short story writer and playwright. Idris originally studied medicine at Cairo University before he found his vocation in writing plays and short stories, some of which have been adapted into successful films and are fixtures of Egyptian pop culture.
In many ways, Idris helped shape modern Egyptian theatre, blending folklore and popular elements with modern storytelling techniques.
One of Egypt’s most prestigious literary awards for short fiction is named after Idris and is awarded annually by the High Council for Culture to young writers who are innovative with a genre with which Idris contributed to masterfully.
The Youssef Idris short story award was given to young novelist, Mohamed Abdel Rahman El-Fakharany, for his story Stories Playing with The World, in a ceremony last Monday that was attended by the Secretary General of the High Council for Culture, Saad Tawfik.
The Jury responsible for choosing El-Fakharany included notable novelists and intellectuals and was headed by novelist Ahmed El-Sheikh. Other members were novelists Youssef El-Qaid and Salwa Bakr, as well as writers and critics Youssef El-Sharony and Azza Badr.
The monetary value of the award is EGP 25,000, a number that was increased at the suggestion of poet Ashraf Amer, who is also the general manager of publishing at the High Council.
Writer Azza Badr expressed the jury’s pleasure with El-Fakharany’s story and said that his imagination made them think of embracing “beauty, magic and astonishment and a great urge to remove sadness, despair and lying from the world.”
Youssef Idris himself was the recipient of another prestigious award, in the name of Naguib Mahfouz, the nation’s most famous literary export, when he was alive. Some notable stories for Idris include El-Haram, Beit Men Lahm and Hadset Sharaf. His most famous work is Al-Farafeer; a depiction of the master and the underdog that has become immortalised on stage.
Badr went on to say that there were other notable short stories from Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the jury expressed their relief that the Arab world had a generation of writers who were capable of “taking the Arabic novel to new horizons.”
The High Council for Culture stated that they will start working immediately on publishing the short story collection of El-Fakharany.