23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Mekkawi Said
© Hartwig Klappert

Mekkawi Said

Mekkawi Said was born in Cairo in 1955 and studied accounting at Cairo University. He is a scriptwriter and author, and runs the publishing house »ad-Dar« in Cairo, which has made a reputation based on a small, select fiction programme brought out in fine editions. He has won literary prizes, including one awarded by the Egyptian Radio and Television Festival for his film scripts. In 1991, he won the Soad El-Sabbah Prize for Arabic fiction. Said has published five short story collections and two novels. »Taghridat al-baja« (Cairo, 2007) was short-listed for the Arabic Booker Prize, won the Egyptian State Prize for Literature and the English translation is to  be published  in the autumn of 2009 (»Cairo Swan Song«). This novel made Mekkawi Said famous across the Arab world. It is about the transitions of late 1970s generation. The author uses the protagonists, Mustafa and his friends, to illustrate the fate of an entire generation of Egyptians who were active in left-wing parties and organisations and who dreamed of a better future. Mustafa is a classic anti-hero, who is always on the losing side, whether at work or in his private life, in relationships with friends and with women. The other main character in the novel is its setting : »Wist el-Balad«. This is the Talat-Harb square district in central Cairo. Named after a famous Egyptian economist of the early twentieth century, the district bears the stamp of the Euro-centric policies of the nineteenth century Khedive Ismail. Yet the district’s best days are long gone; a sense of decay is unevitable.

Mekkawi Said compares »Wist el-Balad« to the cosmopolitan atmosphere in Alexandria in  the 1920s. In a recent interview he said: »A lot has been written about this district, but mostly through tourists’ eyes. I was born here and I know exactly how the area has changed and how important it is for Egypt. I write about it, I can try to preserve it.«

This Egyptian author works in the tradition of Arabic prose writers, such as Mohamed Choukri or Samuel Shimon, who use autobiographical material to reflect unflinchingly on their life situations.

Mekkawi Said lives in Cairo.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Firan as-safina
Kairo, 1991

Taghridat al-baja
Kairo, 2007

Sari as-saghir
Kairo, 2008