Yaqoubian building launched in Britain
The novel Yaqoubian building by egyptian author Alaa al Aswany has been launched in Britain this month by the fourth estate publishing house. The Guardian has a positive review today.
¨ it stands midway between the foundation novel of Egyptian Arabic, Naguib Mahfouz's Zaqaq al Midaq (Midaq Alley, 1947) and the modern Egyptian television serial.¨
Although i kind of wonder how many Egyptian televison serials the reviewer could possibly have watched? Perhaps he just read Dramas of Nationhood - The Politics of Television in Egypt by Lila Abu_Lughod. But it´s catchy, i have to admit.
James Buchan ends his review like this:
¨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 Hosni Mubarak's 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 truth is that in Mubarak's Egypt, just as in Saddam Hussein's Baghdad or even the shah's Tehran, sex is one thing but the boss is quite another, and the difference is a matter of life and death.¨
Alaa al Aswany also made an interview on the BBC radio channel 3 flagship show Night waves
with Philip Dodd.
I´ve written quite a lot about the bestselling novel and the subsequent blockbuster film , and i will continue to take every opportunity to do so. The book has made quite a success in France and Italy and is going to be translated into 17 different languages. Something very few Egyptian authors have achieved. Perhaps Taha Hussein, Naguib Mahfouz of course and most probably Nawal as Saádawi. It´s easier nowadays to get translated, but still quite an achievement.
Alaa al Aswany has moved on by writing a new novel, released in January 2007 (in arabic, Dar ash Shourouk publishing), it´s called Chicago, and portrays life among Egyptian-Americans in post 9/11 America. You can find Baheyya´s take on the novel here.
My earlier postings on Yaqoubiyan here, here and a bit about the film here.
UPDATE: Here is a brand new article on Alaa al Aswany by Daniel Williams.
UPDATE II: Aswany´s latest novel Chicago has now been translated to french. A review from the Le Monde book supplement can be found at Arabist.
Yaqoubian building, Chicago,Alaa al Aswany, Egyptian literature, Egypt