Iman Mersal Wins James Tait Black Prize

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Egyptian poet, Iman Mersal has been announced as the winner of the James Tait Black Prize 2024 with her biography book, Traces of Enayat, translated by Robin Moger. 

Traces of Enayat, is an investigative route to uncover the story of Enayat al-Zayyat (1936-1963), a figure in Egyptian literature who nearly disappeared from the canon. In 1963, al-Zayyat killed herself just days after hearing publishers were not interested in her novel Love and Silence. Mersal describes the novel’s steadfast contemporary relevance, its feminist consciousness, and how you sense the ponderous influence of contemporary romance novels, but elsewhere it is modern, strange, limpid, and beyond categorization. Yet the novel is entirely absent from every history of twentieth century Egyptian and Arabic literature. In this sharp investigation, Mersal fights against al-Zayyat’s erasure, piecing together the author’s short life and illuminating Egypt’s literary scene and the many societal difficulties faced by a young creative woman in the 1960s.

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are literary prizes awarded for literature written in the English language. They, along with the Hawthornden Prize, are Britain’s oldest literary awards. Based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, United Kingdom, the prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats Black in memory of her late husband, James Tait Black, a partner in the publishing house of A & C Black Ltd. Prizes are awarded in three categories: Fiction, Biography and Drama (since 2013).

In her response to the award, Iman Mersal says:

“It is a great honour to see Traces of Enayat added to the distinguished list of biographies that have received The James Tait Black Prize. I’m especially pleased at this recognition of a work written originally in Arabic, and am deeply grateful to the James Tait Black committee for valuing the art of translation. I share this award with Robin Moger, whose devotion to Arabic literature has made so many wonderful and important books accessible to readers everywhere. My gratitude also goes to our English publisher, And Other Stories, as well as to my Arabic publisher, Al Kotob Khan, for their unwavering support”.

Iman Mersal is an Egyptian Poet who graduated from Mansoura University, and received her MA and PhD from Cairo University. She co-founded Bint al-Ard (Daughter of the Earth), which she co-edited from 1986 to 1992. She immigrated to Boston, in 1998, and then to Edmonton, Alberta with her family in 1999. Mersal serves as Associate Professor of Arabic literature at the University of Alberta. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, The American Poetry Review, Parnassus, The New York Review of Books, and Paris Review. She has read at numerous poetry festivals around the world, including the London Poetry Parnassus, billed as the biggest gathering of poets in world history, where she represented Egypt.

Congratulations Iman Mersal!


Bakare Oluwatobiloba

I write to educate, motivate and define history with literature. Just being me!