Ahmed Naji

Ahmed Naji


أحمد ناجي

Ahmed Naji, born in Mansoura, Egypt (1985), began his writing career when he created his first literary blog in 2005. After studying journalism, he worked as an editor at the state-owned literary weekly Akhbar al-adab and published his first novel in 2007. In February 2016 he was sentenced to two years of jail after a chapter of his second novel Istikhdam al-hayat (The Use of Life, 2014) was reprinted in Akhbar al-adab.  It was the first case in Egypt of a writer being imprisoned for offending public morality in a work of fiction. His case received widespread attention and the support of many renowned writers. He was given the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award while still in prison. After his release and the lifting of a two-year travel ban he moved to the United States in 2018, where he reunited with his wife. He is currently a fellow at the Black Mountain Institute (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). Since his release, he has published a collection of short stories (2017), a prison memoir (2020), and two other novels (2020, 2023) and he is a regular contributor to several online cultural magazines in Arabic and English.

His website (in English): ahmednaji.net

His Twitter account (in Arabic): twitter.com

© Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Date of birth : 1985
Country of birth: Egypt
Country of residence: USA
Contact: teneleven (agency)

Selected bibliography

  • النهايات السعيدة, Happy Endings*, Al Mahrousa, Egypt, 2023
  • حرز مكمكم, Rotten Evidence*, Dar Sefsafa, Egypt, 2020
  • والنمور لحجرتي, Tigers, Uninvited*, Al Mahrousa, Egypt, 2019
  • لغز المهرجان المشطور, The Enigma of the Festival*, Dar Merit, Egypt, 2017
  • استخدام الحياة, The Use of Life, Dar Al Tanweer, Egypt, 2014. English translations: The Use of Life, University of Texas Press, US, 2015, trans. by Benjamin Koerber; Using Life, University of Texas Press, US, 2017, trans. by Benjamin Koerber. Italian translation: Vita : Istruzioni per l’uso, Il Sirente, Italy, 2016, trans. by Elisabetta Rossi and Fernanda Fischione
  • روجرز, Rogers*, Dar Malamih, Egypt, 2007. Italian translation: Rogers e la Via del drago divorato dal sole, Il Sirente, Italy, 2010, trans. by Barbara Benini

* Working title


Ep 5 – Narrating the Middle East by People Like Us, October 2022 (podcast)

Ahmed Naji – Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in Prison by apexart, July 2019 (conference)

BEIGE Writing… Ahmed Naji in conversation with Sam Diamond by Partisan Hotel, January 2019

After the Revolution: Three novels of Egypt’s repressive present by Harpers magazine, January 2018

The Best New Fiction by The Wall Street Journal, December 2017

Richard Jacquemond: Ahmed Naji, the Use of Life and the zombies by Richard Jacquemond on Ahmed Naji’s website, March 2017

Teresa Pepe: ‘Literature’ is on trial in Egypt by Teresa Pepe on Ahmed Naji’s website, March 2017

Inside the Strange Saga of a Cairo Novelist Imprisoned for Obscenity by Rolling Stone, February 2017

Egypt: Laughter in the Dark by The New York Review, December 2016

Using Life: Instructions for Play by The New Inquiry, May 2016 

Les bienheureux au Caire sont ceux qui ont dépassé le stade de la frustration sexuelle (in French) by Le Monde, February 2016 (opinion column)

‘Using Life’: A Novel Excerpt on Trial in Egypt by Arablit, January 2016 (excerpt from Using Life)


See author’s selection of relevant articles on his website

Prizes and awards

  • Shortlisted for the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, 2019
  • AFAC grants, 2018
  • Shortlisted for the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards 2018
  • The English translation of the novel Using Life was shortlisted as best translated Arabic book (Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation), 2018
  • PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Award, USA, 2016
  • Dubai Press Club Arab Journalism Award, UAE for best culture article in 2012

Book(s) featured on this site

Reviewed by Richard Jacquemond