Sunday 25 September 2011

Al Aswany, Alaa "The Yacoubian Building"

Al Aswany, Alaa "The Yacoubian Building" (Arabic: عمارة يعقوبيان, Imarat Ya'qubian) - 2002

This book is described as "an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society?. I don't know how ironic it is but I thought it was a very interesting account of a life I know absolutely nothing about. Apparently, the building in Cairo exists but is different from the one in the book. The original owner used to be very rich but now the house has been made into lots and lots of tiny little apartments (originally storage space) and the story tells us about their lives.

Very interesting, sometimes quite challenging read.

From the back cover:
"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 -- 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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