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Books

The Yacoubian Building

Sunday 21/January/2018 - 11:20 AM
Sada El Balad

This controversial bestselling novel in the Arab world reveals the political corruption، sexual repression، religious extremism، and modern hopes of Egypt today.

All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building، a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo: a fading aristocrat and self-proclaimed "scientist of women"; a devout young student، feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism; a newspaper editor helplessly in love with a policeman; a corrupt and corpulent politician، twisting the Koran to justify his desires.

These disparate lives careen toward an explosive conclusion in Alaa Al Aswany's remarkable international bestseller. Teeming with heartfelt compassion، this book is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world.

Paperback: 255 pages
Author:Alaa Al Aswany
Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Harper Perennial Edition edition (August 1، 2006)
Language: English
Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches

About the Author
Alaa Al Aswany is the internationally bestselling author of The Yacoubian Building and Chicago. A journalist who writes a controversial opposition column، Al Aswany makes his living as a dentist in Cairo.

Editorial Reviews

“[A] hilarious، sensual، bawdy and beautiful novel.” (Nerve)

“Captivating and controversial....an amazing glimpse of modern Egyptian society and culture.” (New York Review of Books)

“...tremendously likable.... This vision of life connects high with low، rich with poor، through shared vices and needs.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact that Alaa Al Aswany's novel has had in Egypt. The Yacoubian Building has topped the bestseller lists for over two years، been adapted for the screen by Marwan Hamid and inspired impassioned cultural debate. This addictively readable evocation of Cairo at a time of political and social ferment، during the first Gulf War، is both a damning critique and a love letter to a city and its inhabitants. It engages with corruption، sexism، Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism; all sensitive and controversial issues in contemporary Egyptian society. (the independent)

Yet despite dealing with serious subjects، the experience of reading the novel is more akin to a guilty literary pleasure than a civic duty. Al Aswany's interwoven narratives of the diverse inhabitants of a once grand، now dilapidated، apartment block in downtown Cairo marry the humanist realism of Balzac with the hyperbolic momentum of Egyptian soap opera.

For all its risqué material، and its parade of sodomy and scripture، The Yacoubian Building is restrained in its portrayal of the actual relations of power and wealth in Egypt. When Hagg Muhammad Azzam، desperate to protect his business interests، seeks a meeting with "the Big Man" at his cement Versailles، he is greeted not by a person but by a disembodied voice through a loudspeaker. The veil of power is intact.(the guardian)

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