Harvard Book Store welcomes AHMED NAJI—novelist, documentary filmmaker, and criminal—for a discussion his new memoir, Rotten Evidence:Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison. He will be joined in conversation by ALEXANDRA CHREITEH—author of Always Coca-Cola and Ali and his Russian Mother.
About Rotten Evidence
In February 2016, Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison for “violating public modesty,” after an excerpt of his novel Using Life reportedly caused a reader to experience heart palpitations. Naji ultimately served ten months of that sentence, in a group cell block in Cairo’s Tora Prison.
Rotten Evidence is a chronicle of those months. Through Naji’s writing, the world of Egyptian prison comes into vivid focus, with its cigarette-based economy, home-made chess sets, and well-groomed fixers. Naji’s storytelling is lively and uncompromising, filled with rare insights into both the mundane and grand questions he confronts.
How does one secure a steady supply of fresh vegetables without refrigeration? How does one write and revise a novel in a single notebook? Fight boredom? Build a clothes hanger? Negotiate with the chief of intelligence? And, most crucially, how does one make sense of a senseless oppression: finding oneself in prison for the act of writing fiction. Genuine and defiant, this book stands as a testament to the power of the creative mind, in the face of authoritarian censorship.
Praise for Rotten Evidence
“Ahmed Naji confronts what happens when one’s fundamentally unserious, oversexed youth dovetails with an authoritarian, utterly self-serious regime.”—Zadie Smith, author of The Fraud
“A powerful account of an artist plunged into a Kafkaesque encounter with state censorship.”—Jordan Kisner, author of Thin Places: Essays from In Between
“A remarkable deviation from conventional prison narratives … navigates multiple genres to tell us about history, books, talismans of power, social classes, multiplicity of desires, wicked destinies, and bonds of friendship that develop in a prison.”—Iman Mersal, author of The Threshold