Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison

Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison
حرز مكمكم
(Hirz Mikamkim)

Written by

(أحمد ناجي)

Published by


Memoir and meta-narrative combine in a unique work of anti-prison literature.

In early 2016, Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison for offending public morality when his novel Using Life, a cynical fortysomething’s rock’n’roll romp through a dystopian future Cairo, was excerpted in an Egyptian literary weekly. Although his case received widespread attention—and the support of writers from Philip Roth and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Margaret Atwood and Orhan Pamuk—Ahmed served ten months in prison before he was finally released. Rotten Evidence is Ahmed’s account of those ten months. The result is an unexpectedly humble, irreverent account of how, while serving a prison sentence for bringing literature into disrepute, Ahmed finally came to think of himself as a writer. Yasmine Seale writes for Harper’s that “in a culture beset with political gloom, [Naji’s work] agitates for the freedom to be unserious.”

Approximate number of pages: 265 p.

Foreign rights: contact the author‘s agent


Reasons to publish this book

Ahmed Naji accidentally found himself caught up in the high-stakes game of Middle Eastern morality politics, and ended up paying a price he never expected. His account of those events, which follows the absurd twists and turns of the case through to the darker times following his conviction and sentencing, is a searing critique of dictatorship and oppression; it is also a heartfelt exploration of how the books we read make us who we are.


Prizes and awards

  • Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) grant for Creative and Critical Writings, 2018
  • Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies grant


Reading and writing in an Egyptian prison (an excerpt from Rotten Evidence translated by Katharine Halls) by The Believer, 2021

Rotten Evidence: Ahmed Naji’s Incarcerated Fiction by Artists at Risk Connection, September 2019 

Reviewed by Katharine Halls