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The Yacoubian Building: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2006
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“Captivating and controversial .. . .an amazing glimpse of modern Egyptian society and culture.” (New York Review of Books)
“...tremendously likable.... This vision of life connects high with low, rich with poor, through shared vices and needs.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
About the Author
Alaa Al Aswany is the internationally bestselling author of The Yacoubian Building and Chicago. A journalist who writes a controversial opposition column, Al Aswany makes his living as a dentist in Cairo.
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Top Customer Reviews
I found this book a little difficult to get into for a couple of reasons. One, I am not at all familiar with landscape of Egypt. Second, although I am marrying an Egyptian, and have somewhat of a familiarity for Arabic names, it was still a bit confusing to keep track of each of the characters -- especially with most of them having a nickname or title attached to their name in various parts of the story. I found myself having to back track during the first 30 or so pages to keep each character straight, which was a bit frustrating for a seasoned reader with a supposedly high comprehension level. I know, I know: what should I expect from a book translated from Arabic, about Arabic people, and taking place in an Arabic world? Still, I thought that it merited a warning...
This was still an absolutely gripping novel. For those like me who may struggle with the names or places and get a bit frustrated in the initial pages, the story is well worth it. I was soon immersed in the lives of the characters, and began to care for them as if I knew them personally. I was able to relate it to what I know of Egyptian culture, and it opened my eyes to aspects of the culture which I have not personally seen.
In the larger scope of things, it really makes you think about the political/religious/ethnic and just general social issues that surround us. It allows one to think outside of the box and experience a life or lives that you ordinarily would not be able to. Although very sad in parts, it also contained great happiness, and allows you to truly see a beautiful culture at its best, at its worst, at its most twisted, and at its most innocent. A very honest, and very enthusiastic 5 stars.
The title, and the building which is the foci of the novel, is a name and a building with non-Egyptian/Arabic name and an origin in a more cosmopolitan and liberal Egypt of the past. The characters represent various sorts of Egyptian personality types in the downtown area: a rich homosexual, a potential aristocrat of the old pre-Nasir regime lapsed into decadence and stagnancy after falling from relevancy in the new regime, a rich "self made" owner of a chain of stores, one of which is in the ground floor of the Yacoubian Building, and on the roof, representatives of the new and also very poor Egypt: a young woman whose father has died and thus is forced to take a job which includes paid sexual harrassement to support her family, the son of the doorman who is dilligent in his studies and preparations to become a police officer, a servant in the building who is renting a shack on the roof of the building so he can set up a shirt-making store, and others.
What all these characters have in common is that each character makes some sort of dramatic leap from the status quo character portrayed the begining of the novel to some fate, either more promising or resulting in the character's fall from some sort of interim grace.Read more ›
Clearly, parts of the book that deal with sexuality and physical intimacy are designed to shock and provoke readers. These topics and the way they are handled, however, are far less provocative to Western readers who generally live in more liberal societies. That being the case, it was very interesting to see the germination of a jihadist, as well as the inter-play of colonialism, fundamentalism and authoritarianism in modern Cairo. Mr. Aswany is a talented story-teller and social oberserver. I also liked the ending, which demonstrated real optimism and the belief in finding truth and happiness despite troublesome surroundings.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was not a book that held my interest. I only continued as I had been told it was good and was expecting the good part to arrive. But no.Published 24 days ago by Tony Mudgway
I had to read the book for my Modern Egyptian History class. The book was a very good read.Published 25 days ago by ERICKA
Before long, I was engaged with each of the characters, following their lives and feeling I was right there. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Nahid Sewell
I know it wasn't the author's intention but this book made me afraid to go to Cairo as a woman. His description of the plight of women was deeply distressing. Read morePublished 6 months ago by zinnia
This book was okay. Slightly predictable. Follows several characters in Cairo trying to make it in a world with a collapsing government full of corrupt characters. Read morePublished 7 months ago by AJL21
Interesting. The writing is uneven and could have benefited from closer and more careful editing. The individual stories are difficult to integrate into a coherent format but the... Read morePublished 10 months ago by robert b. lane
I loved this book about the current Egypt. Very well written, very interesting descriptions.Published 11 months ago by Helen Shreves
Excellent Novel. al Aswany is one of the best novelist writing today, Arab, Middle Eastern, or otherwise.Published 11 months ago by Kenso
The Yacoubian Building provides a glimpse into the complicated lives of residents of an Egyptian building. Read morePublished 11 months ago by AU