Gamal al Ghitani.
The famous Egyptian author Gamal al-Ghitany died Sunday in al-Galaa Military Hospital in Cairo. He was 70. Ghitani had been in a coma for two months after he suffered a
heart attack in August.
Al-Ghitani was one of Egypt’s best known twentieth-century novelists, author of the well known novel Zayni Barakat, and editor in chief of one of the leading Arabic literary newspapers, Akhbar Al-Adab, a newspaper he founded in 1993. He remained its editor in chief till 2011.
Al-Ghitani was born in Sohag, in upper Egypt, on 9 May 1945 to a poor family that later emigrated to the Gamaliyya neighbourhood in Islamic Cairo, a neighbourhood that - like in the books of his colleague and friend Naguib Mahfouz - played an important role in many of his books. He started as a child as a carpetmaker and worked in one of the Khan
el-Khalili factories in Cairo, but in 1969 he started his literary career with 'Papers of a Young Guy, who Lived a Thousand Years Ago'. The same year he found work at the news desk of the daily paper Akhbar el-Youm. During the October War of 1973 he worked as a war correspondent between the front lines.
Edward Said, according to Ahram Weekly, once said that,“The finest, leanest, most steely Arabic prose that I have either read or heard is produced by novelists like Elias Khoury and Gamal El-Ghitani. … Each of whose prose is a razor-sharp Aristotelian instrument the elegance of which resembles Empson’s or Newman’s.”
Several of al-Ghitani’s works are in English translation: Zayni Barakat, The Zafarani Files, The Mahfouz Dialogs,;Pyramid Texts, and The Book of Epiphanies, among others, many are aslo tranlated into French, German and other languages
Ghitani has won many prizes and his works have been recognised locally and internationally.
He won the Nile Award for Literature in 2015, the highest literary honour granted by the Egyptian state. He also won the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987, as well as several other awards.