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. Ala 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.
About the Author
Trained as a dentist in Egypt and Chicago, it took him 9 years to earn his masters degree in dentistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago where he spent 17 years in his life. al-Aswany has contributed numerous articles to Egyptian newspapers on literature, politics, and social issues. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building
, an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, has been widely read in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. It has been translated into English, Danish, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Polish, Greek and Dutch, and was adapted into a film (2006) and a television series (2007) of the same name. Chicago
, a novel set in the city in which the author was educated, was published in January 2007.
Al-Aswany participated in the Blue Metropolis in Montreal, June 2008, and was featured in interviews with the CBC programme "Writers and Company".