The Yacoubian Building

The Yacoubian Building

by Alaa Al Aswany (Author), HumphreyDavies (Translator)


An international bestseller, "The Yacoubian Building" is a mesmerising and controversial novel that is at once an impassioned celebration and a ruthless dissection of a society dominated by bribery and corruption. The Yacoubian building - once grand, but now dilapidated - stands on one of Cairo's main boulevards. Taha, the doorman's son, has aspirations beyond the slum in the skies, and dreams of one day becoming a policeman. He studies hard, and passes all the exams, but when he is rejected because his family is neither rich nor influential, the bitterness sets in. His girlfriend, Busyana, finds herself unable to earn a living without also providing sexual services for the men who hire her. When Taha seeks solace in a student Islamic organisation, the pressure mounts, and he is drawn to actions with devastating consequences. "The Yacoubian Building" follows Taha's trajectory from innocence to tragedy. The people whose lives orbit his - the inhabitants of the building - are also facing their own difficult choices. From those living in squalid and cramped conditions on the rooftops, to the homosexual editor of "Le Caire" newspaper and a womanising aristocrat, 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 the vision of a more ancient society. Alaa Al Aswany's mesmerising novel caused an unprecedented stir when it was published in Egypt. It is at once an impassioned celebration and a ruthless dissection of a society dominated by bribery and corruption.


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More Information

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Published: 05 Feb 2007

ISBN 10: 0007243618
ISBN 13: 9780007243617

Media Reviews
'You don't get many writers like Alaa Al Aswany in the West any more. The Yacoubian Building paints a marvellous picture of modern Egypt with all its hypocrisies and fanaticism -- the gulf between rich and poor reminiscent of Dickensian London. Like the late Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa Al Aswany is a world writer, making Egyptian concerns into human ones and beautifully illuminating our always extraordinary and sometimes sad and baffling world.' The Times 'A bewitching political novel of contemporary Cairo that is also an 'engage' novel about sex, a romantic novel about power and a comic yet sympathetic novel about the vagaries of the human heart.' New York Times Book Review 'A powerful novel of corruption and fanaticism!Anyone with an interest in Middle East culture will find something refreshing here. Anyone else willing to lose their weekend devouring this absorbing novel shouldn't hesitate.' Waterstones Books Quarterly 'Captivating and controversial!an amazing glimpse of modern Egyptian society and culture.' New York Review of Books 'Delves into a mix of power, currption, sex exploitation, poverty, and extremism!lucidly captures the varied aspects of Egyptian life: straight, gay, rich, poor, powerful, and powerless.' Egypt Today 'The colourful stories are interwoven seamlessly in a narrative packed with incident and inevitability. Inevitability, because in 'The Yacoubian Building' the corruption of the neo-colonial government is a natural consequence of colonial history, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a natural by-product of the resistance of such corruption. Evocative and moving.' Sunday Business Post
Author Bio
Alaa Al Aswany was born in 1957. He is a dentist by profession, and for many years practiced in the Yacoubian Building which was to form the setting for his bestselling novel. He has written prolifically for Egyptian newspapers on politics, literature and social issues.