Saturday, February 17, 2007

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.

some soundbites:
¨ 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.


Blogger Egyptian Kangaroo said...

Looks like a new cinema has just opened in Cairo. It is quite expensive to get in and you don't really know what movie you will be watching until you are in your seat. There are days the movie is exciting and you get to see people throwing shoes at each other and there are days when it is quite dull. All the movies have not passed the censor and some of them are cheap remakes of the original ones. You can even bring in your own popcorn or nuts if you have a "Wasta"! If you don't like the movie that is showing you can fall asleep. You even get paid to attend. Either way you are spending someone else's money. The poor Egyptian tax payer remember them?
Come and check out the pictures and tell me what you think.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Fida from Malaysia and I would like to ask you some questions regarding Naguib Mahfouz's books. please email me at

11:16 AM  
Blogger Ibn ad Dunya said...

Dear Fida,

I´m not an expert on Naguib Mahfouz, merely a huge fan.

If you email me with your questions, i will be more than happy to assist, in either providing you with less than perfect answers to your questions or point in the right direction for further information.

You can find my e-mail in my profile.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ibn ad Dunya,
unfortunately your profile does not include your email add. have you taken it off? i can't seem to find it. anyway, please email me at, and from there i'll be able to know your email add, if you want it to be classified.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Ibn ad Dunya said...

Dear Fida,

Sorry, my e-mail was switched off, i´ve fixed it. Feel free to contact me.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I just emailed to you about 5 minutes ago. hope to hear from you soon!


2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:45 AM  

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