Using Life (novel)
Artist: Ahmed Naji
Date of Action: 2016
Region: Middle East
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Confronting Bodies: Egyptian censorship board
Description of Artwork: Ahmed Naji's novel, Using Life, anticipates a dystopian end for Cairo at the hands of a secretive group of architects. Naji wrote the experimental novel in collaboration with illustrator Ayman al-Zorqani. The novel is an experiment on the themes of sex and drugs in a context of censorship and persecution. Naji is recognized for his writings on contemporary art and indie music. Using Life is. Naji’s second novel; it has been curated into exhibitions, an animated film, and a multimedia performance.
The Incident: From Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016: "Naji, a 31-year-old journalist, blogger and novelist, was imprisoned for “violating public modesty” in relation to a chapter of his hybrid graphic novel Istakhdem al-Haya (Using Life, 2014), after a reader filed a case against him, arguing that its sexually explicit content made him feel ill.
"A court acquitted Naji in December 2015, but on the prosecution’s appeal in February 2016 he was sentenced to the maximum term of two years and imprisoned immediately. Tarek al-Taher, chief editor of the state-affiliated Akhbar al-Adab magazine in which the novel was serialized, was sentenced to a LE10,000 fine in the same case.
"The move caused widespread outrage, from Egypt’s culture minister and fellow novelists to the international press, as a step further in a barrage of censorship, closures and imprisonment sweeping the political sphere. Many works of Arabic literature contain content of a sexual nature.
"Naji was awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in May this year."
Results of Incident: UPDATE April 24, 2018: "CAIRO – 24 April 2018: Novelist Ahmed Naji was fined LE 20,000 ($1,130) on Tuesday following a retrial for publishing “indecent text that violates public modesty” due to a sexually loaded chapter from his novel “Using Life”. He had previously been sentenced to two years in prison in February 2016. Although Naji’s final sentence entails a fine, he already spent 10 months in jail after the original sentence." (Egypt Today, April 24, 2018)
UPDATE MAY 21, 2017: "Novelist Ahmed Naji has won his appeal before Egypt’s Court of Cassation — in the case of an allegedly sexually provocative novel excerpt — with the court vacating his two-year prison sentence and ordering his retrial." (Arabic Lit., MAY 21, 2017)
UPDATE Dec 18, 2016: "The two-year prison sentence against writer Ahmed Naji, who has been jailed since February on charges of public indecency, was suspended on Sunday pending review on January 1, 2017." (Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016)
The novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji — along with his editor, Tarek al-Taher — was tried, and upon appeal, re-tried for the publication of an excerpt of his novel Using Life in Akhbar al-Adab. As of December 4, 2016, Naji remains in jail but is on the 2nd presidential pardon list.
Source: The Guide for "Use of Life" - دليل استخدام الحياة
Novelist Ahmed Naji fined LE 20K over sexually loaded chapter, Egypt Today, by Hanan Fayed Tue, Apr. 24, 2018
Ahmed Naji to Face Trial Again for Book Excerpt, CBLDF, January 10, 2018
Egyptian Court Vacates Novelist Ahmed Naji’s Sentence, Orders New Trial, Arabic Lit., BY MLYNXQUALEY on MAY 21, 2017
Inside the Strange Saga of a Cairo Novelist Imprisoned for Obscenity, Rolling Stone, Feb 25, 2017
Court suspends sentence against writer Ahmed Naji, release imminent: Lawyer, Mada Masr, Dec 18, 2016
Egyptian Novelist Jailed on Obscenity Charges to Be Released, By NOUR YOUSSEF, DEC. 18, 2016
Jailed Egyptian novelist Naji on 2nd presidential pardon list: Committee Member, Menna Alaa El-Din, al-Ahram, Sunday 4 Dec 2016
Three New Short-short Stories by Imprisoned Writer Ahmed Naji BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on DECEMBER 3, 2016
Egypt: Laughter in the Dark, Zadie Smith, New York Review of Books, Dec 2, 2016
‘Using Life’: A Novel Excerpt on Trial in Egypt, BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on JANUARY 25, 2016
Egyptian Novelist Ahmed Naji and Editor Tarek al-Taher Will Go Back to Court in ‘Public Morals’ Case, BY MLYNXQUALEY, Arabic Literature (in English) on JANUARY 13, 2016