Arabic Literature
English edition  
Aug  2006
266 pp.
Paperback
12.5X20 cm
$14.95
LE75
ISBN 978 977 416 027 1
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The Yacoubian Building

Alaa Al Aswany
Translated by Humphrey Davies

The debut novel that took Egypt by storm

The Yacoubian Building holds all that Egypt was and has become over the 75 years since its namesake was built on one of downtown Cairo’s main boulevards. From the pious son of the building’s doorkeeper and the raucous, impoverished squatters on its roof, via the tattered aristocrat and the gay intellectual in its apartments, to the ruthless businessman whose stores occupy its ground floor, each sharply etched character embodies a facet of modern Egypt—one where political corruption, ill-gotten wealth, and religious hypocrisy are natural allies, where the arrogance and defensiveness of the powerful find expression in the exploitation of the weak, where youthful idealism can turn quickly to extremism, and where an older, less violent vision of society may yet prevail. Alaa Al Aswany’s novel caused an unprecedented stir when it was first published in 2002 and has remained the world’s best selling novel in the Arabic language since.
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Alaa Al Aswany was born in 1957. A dentist whose first office was in the Yacoubian Building, Al Aswany has written prolifically for Egyptian newspapers across the political spectrum on literature, politics, and social issues. Humphrey Davies earned his doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the translator of Thebes at War by Naguib Mahfouz (AUC Press, 2003). He was awarded the 2010 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of Yalo by Elias Khoury.

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Reviews

"A scathing portrayal of modern Egyptian history . . . The only way to be more shocked about things in Egypt is to actually spend some time in the dilapidated Cairo neighborhood where the book is set." -- Matt Rees, The Guardian "A bleak and utterly compelling snapshot of contemporary Cairo and Egypt"—Lonely Planet "If you read only one contemporary Egyptian novel before or during your visit, make it this one."—Lonely Planet Praise for The Yacoubian Building:

“Cairo hasn't been so vividly - or sexily - evoked since Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk.”—Rory MacClean, The Guardian

“The Cairo dentist-turned-bestseller has launched a thousand painful puns, but then his fiction does get right to the root of modern Egypt's dilemmas.”—The Independent

“With its interlocking vignettes and intertwining characters, Alaa Al Aswany's hip and racy novel The Yacoubian Building creates a complex narrative of contemporary Egyptian life.” – Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, The Daily Star

“Captivating and controversial . . . . An amazing glimpse of modern Egyptian society and culture.” – New York Review of Books

“Alaa Al-Aswany is a courageous, outspoken social critic. His novel transmits the reassuring intimacy of the city’s rhythms alongside the familiar treachery of its predators and the machinations of the power structure that produced them.” – Maria Golia, TLS Praise for Al Aswany:

“…[L]ike the late Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa Al Aswany is a world writer, making Egyptian concerns into human ones and beautifully illuminating our always extraordinary and sometimes sad and baffling world.” – The Times

“Alaa Al Aswany has written himself into world literature . . . . [He is] keenly alive to the great human comedy.” – an as-yet anonymous Danish daily

“If only every encounter with the dentist were this enjoyable”—Stephanie Merritt, The Observer Review, September 9, 2007

“…lays bare political corruption and religious hypocrisy, idealism, and extremism to paint an intense image of what he believes Egypt has become.”—Egypt Today

“With its interlocking vignettes and intertwining characters, Alaa al-Aswany's hip and racy novel The Yacoubian Building creates a complex narrative of contemporary Egyptian life.” —Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, The Daily Star

“ . . . a provocative survey of the social and political pressures of the present…” —Donna Bryson, Associated Press

“…a primer of Cairene types and temperaments and the predicaments to which they are prone.” —Maria Golia, TLS, August 2005

“…a portrait of the city, its theatrically, heroism and tragic flaws.” —Maria Golia, TLS, August 2005

“Alaa Al-Aswany is a courageous, outspoken social critic. His novel transmits the reassuring intimacy of the city’s rhythms alongside the familiar treachery of its predators and the machinations of the power structure that produced them.” —Maria Golia, TLS, August 2005

“The Yacoubian Building is Cairo in microcosm: arena, prison, labyrinth; a shipwreck from which humanity is tenuously salvaged.” —Maria Golia, TLS, August 2005

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