Fiction in Translation
English edition  
April  2010
348 pp.
Paperback
12.5X20 cm
$16.95
LE100
ISBN 9789774163791
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Alaa Al Aswany
Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab

The new novel from the author of The Yacoubian Building

Sex, money, and politics are the driving forces of society in this new novel from bestselling author Alaa Al Aswany. A medley of Egyptian and American lives collides on the campus of the University of Illinois Medical Center in a post-9/11 Chicago, and crises of identity abound. Among the players are an atheistic antiestablishment American professor of the sixties generation, whose relationship with a younger African-American woman becomes a moving target for intolerance; a veiled Ph.D. candidate whose conviction in the code of her traditional upbringing is shaken by her exposure to American society; an émigré who has fervently embraced his new American identity, but who cannot escape his Egyptian roots when faced with the issue of his daughter’s ‘honor’; an Egyptian State Security informant who spouts religious doctrines while hankering after money and power; and a dissident student poet who comes to America with the sole aim of financing his literary aspirations, but whose experience in Chicago turns out to be more than he bargained for. This tightly plotted page-turner is set far from the downtown Cairo of Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building, but is no less unflinching an examination of contemporary Egyptian lives.
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Alaa Al Aswany was born in 1957. A dentist by profession, Al Aswany is the author of the bestselling novel The Yacoubian Building (AUC Press, 2004). Farouk Abdel Wahab was Ibn Rushd Professorial Lecturer in Arabic at the University of Chicago. He was the translator of many works of Arabic fiction, including Gamal al-Ghitani’s The Book of Epiphanies (AUC Press, 2012). He won the 2007 Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of The Lodging House, by Khairy Shalaby (AUC Press pbk, 2008). He died in 2013.

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“A rare opportunity to consider the contemporary Egyptian condition.”—Financial Times, 2008<br><br>

“Alaa Al Aswany as scientist takes a microscope to a segment of uprooted Egyptian society so as to better understand the ills that constrict it: religious fanaticism, taboos, stifled sexuality, a contested political system . . . .”—Louise Sarant, al-Ahram-Hebdo<br><br>

“[T]he structure of Chicago...[is] like a gallery of portraits, each one executed down to the tiniest, most interesting detail.... [A] closer look reveals that that gallery hall is more or less synonymous with Egypt.”—Rania Khallaf, al-Ahram Weekly<br><br>

“An absolutely irresistible portrait of post-September 11th America and the torments of the children of the Nile Valley, who are conscious of belonging to the most ancient human civilization but trapped by the awareness of their own backwardness.”—Thomas Pignot, Point de Vue<br><br>

“In an America still reeling from the attacks of 2001, the author intermingles characters and destinies . . . . Chicago adopts a frank style, unhesitatingly evoking politics and sex.” – Jean-Marc Le Scouarnec, La Dépêche<br><br>

“Even seen through the hallways of an American university, Egypt remains at the heart of this novel rife with political overtones, which challenges the fundamentalism and failings of Egypt with true sensuality.” – L’Humanité Dimanche<br><br>

“Alaa al-Aswany, currently Egypt's top novelist, has also been addressing the thorny issue of Coptic-Christian relations. In his novel Chicago, about Egyptian academics based in the American city, he challenges another two-dimensional caricature – that the Coptic opposition abroad is made up of sell-outs who have become agents of the west.”—Khaled Diab. The Guardian<br><br>Praise for The Yacoubian Building:<br><br>

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

“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<br><br>

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

“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 <br><br>Praise for Al Aswany:<br><br>

“A wonderful storyteller and a cynically astute observer of human folly and frailty”—Spectator<br><br>‘Among the best writers in the Middle East today … Al Aswany has his own magic. Chicago reveals a gifted novelist in mid-flight’—Guardian<br><br>

“…[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 (London)<br><br>

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

“Alaa Al Aswany [is] one of Cairo’s most exciing literary exports in some time.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune<br><br>

“Only a few Egyptian writers of world stature remain, and Alaa Al Aswany has emerged as one of he most successful.”—Los Angeles Times

"A good novel both for an unusual take on the city and America and for a fascinating insight into Egypt before the Arab spring."—Guardian

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