The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
Translated from Arabic by Humphrey Davies
Published by Fourth Estate,Feb 2007
Read an extract here
Time and again Aswany has been criticised and censored for presuming to express opinions and create characters who call the country’s political set-up into question but he refuses to be silenced. Above all, he believes in democracy and freedom, and this vital novel dares to show that. The fact that The Yacoubian Building has sold over 100,000 copies and been the bestselling book in the Arabic language for four years is demonstrative of how very essential Aswany’s writing is.
The Yacoubian Building – once great, now dilapidated – stands on one of Cairo’s main boulevards. Taha, the doorman’s son, aspires to become a policeman; he passes all his exams but is rejected because his family is neither rich nor influential. His girlfriend, Busyana, is unable to earn a living without providing sexual services for the men who hire her.
Taha’s trajectory from innocence to tragedy is orbited by the other inhabitants of the building. From the womanising aristocrat to the homosexual editor of Le Caire newspaper, all of the contradictions in Egyptian society are here. Religious feelings live side by side with promiscuity; bribery and exploitation alternate with moments of joy and elation; modernity clashes with a vision of a more ancient society.
Thursday 8 February, 6.30pm
Alaa Al Aswany – The Yacoubian Building
The Gallery at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road
Alaa Al Aswany discusses his extraordinary novel that is at once an impassioned celebration and a ruthless dissection of a society dominated by bribery and corruption. The Yacoubian Building is a phenomenon in the Arab World. It has been the best-selling novel in the Middle East for two years and the inspiration for the highest-budget Arabic-language film ever, which was released to much acclaim in 2006.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersintranslation/supportedtitles/yacoubianbuilding/