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Egyptian dissident writer wins Blue Met's Arab Prize

Alaa Al Aswany, who recently gained attention for his 2011 book, On the State of Egypt, has won this year's Arab Prize from Montreal's Blue Metropolis international literary festival.

Montreal literary festival brings international stars

Alaa Al Aswany, who recently gained attention for his 2011 book On the State of Egypt, has won this year's Arab Prize from Montreal's Blue Metropolis international literary festival.

His win was announced Wednesday as the annual Montreal festival announced its lineup for this year.

The Egyptian writer is known for his novel The Yacoubian Building, a bitter depiction of contemporary life that won international acclaim.

He also is a founding member of the political movement Kefaya, a grassroots opposition movement that was formed in 2004 and took part in this year's protests in Egypt.

His On the State of Egypt, a collection of his political columns published in the El Shorouk and El Dostour newspapers, was released in English in February reflecting the growing disenchantment of Egyptians with their country.

Al Aswany will take part in a Writers in Peril series at Blue Met, his second appearance in Montreal. Gilbert Sinoué, Caroline Fourest and Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi writer who faced criminal charges in India for writing negatively about her life as a Muslim, are also to speak about challenged writers.

The annual festival includes appearances by Gore Vidal, Alexandre Jardin, Amitav Ghosh and Bernhard Schlink. Several prominent interviewers, including CBC's Eleanor Wachtel, Michael Enright, Jeanette Kelly  and Noah Richler are to interview writers at the popular CBC Blue Series.

Giller Prize winners Linden McIntyre and Johanna Skibsrud  are to read from their works and Skibsrud joins Anne Fine, Kim Thuy and Eric Fottorino in giving a writing master class.

This year the festival has a focus on Indian writing with appearances by Meena Kandasamy, a young poet who has written about Kamala Das, as well as writers Bharati Mukherjee, Amitav Ghosh and Koyamparambath Satchidanandan.

The annual International Literary Grand Prix to an author at the festival will be awarded April 27, as the festival opens.

The Strega Prize, given annually to an Italian writer, will be awarded to novelist Antonio Pennacchi for his novel Canale Mussolini.

Blue Met, which is held in English, French, Italian and several other languages, takes place April 27 to May 1 in Montreal.