Renowned Lebanese writer Hassan Daoud was awarded the 2015 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his novel, "La Tariq Ila Al-Janna" (No Road to Paradise), last week.
Daoud is the second Lebanese writer to have received the honor; novelist Hoda Barakat won the prestigious award in 2000 for "Hareth El-Meyah" (The Tiller of Waters).
The Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature was established in 1996 in honor of the Egyptian literary icon by the AUC Press, the American University in Cairo's publishing house and the leading English language-publisher in Egypt and the Middle East.
The award, which consists of a silver medal, a cash prize and the translation and publication of the selected novel throughout the English-speaking world, honors the best contemporary Arabic novel in the last two years that hasn't yet been published in English.
"No Road to Paradise," which explores the world of a Lebanese man of religion as he experiences an identity crisis, was described by the judges as “a marvelous psychological novel that penetrates the enigmas of time and man in a religious society.”
“Daoud’s evocation of a character enclosed in his existence in a southern Lebanese village is subtle and profound. The work’s insights are Proustian in their precision. Each paragraph is like a wafer-thin cross-section of reality, so simply presented that the problems and questions that each action raises are exposed in all their complexity.”
In his address at the awards ceremony, Daoud talked about the incredible impact Naguib Mahfouz had on Arabic literature and on his own work as well.
"With this award, I find myself having bridged another distance from Naguib Mahfouz," Daoud said.
"I mean Naguib Mahfouz the man who, when we say that the strands of his life were interwoven and intermingled with his novels, we do not mean only what we used to agree upon, that Kamal in the Trilogy is Naguib Mahfouz himself. His novels created our understanding of what it means for life to turn into a novel."
Daoud has published three short story collections and 10 novels, including "Ghina’ Al-Batrik" (The Penguin’s Song) which won the Muntada Cultural Prize for the best Lebanese book in 1998 and "Mi’a Wa Thamanun Ghuruban" (One hundred and Eighty Sunsets) which won the Mediterranean prize for literature and was long-listed for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2010.
He is also a prominent Lebanese journalist, working during the Lebanese Civil War and has since edited multiple Arabic publications including As-Safir, Al-Mustaqbal and Rasif 22.