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Using Life (Emerging Voices from the Middle East) Paperback – November 14, 2017
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"Using Life, which has been vividly translated into English by Benjamin Koerber, is a ribald, streetwise, outrageously inventive speculative fiction that hammers at the chaos and dysfunction of Egyptian life while testifying to the vitality of its counterculture. . . . Even as Egyptian authorities play to the dystopian script by attempting to punish the author for his heterodoxies, his book memorably celebrates the country’s underground seams of freedom and individual expression." (Wall Street Journal 2017-12-22)
"[Using Life] is full of intimate familiarity, occasional tender scorn, and a fervent curiousity toward city and man's entwined fates that is also somehow cooly detached." (Electric Literature 2018-09-06)
"The book is an experiment, wild and weird, full of non sequiturs and oddball imagery...Perhaps it is subversive precisely for its love of whimsy; in a culture beset with political gloom, it agitates for the freedom to be unserious." (Harper's Magazine 2018-01-01)
"[Naji's] story, liberally and whimsically illustrated, follows a 'professional kiss-ass' who ends up stumbling upon a dystopian architectural conspiracy. The real revelation, though, is the cynicism and paralysis afflicting Bassam and his friends, victims of political and religious forces squandering a great city’s creativity." (Vulture 2017-11-07)
"[A] book that infuses new urgency and excitement in the Egyptian, and now international, literary world." (Words Without Borders 2017-12-01)
"The craziest and most inventive dystopian routine fails to tilt Using Life toward fantasy. Naji's skill is making such madness read like journalism. This reviewer has never been to Cairo; after reading this book, not only do I want to go, but I also want to take a bath. Imagine William S. Burroughs without the zest for life and underlying humanism." (Rain Taxi 2019-04-01)
"The name Ahmed Naji has become a rallying cry for writers around the world to stand with free-thinking Egyptians who are unwilling to surrender their rights without a fight." (Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America)
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Weaknesses: Young person's novel: If you're a twenty-something, read; if not, don't. Older characters--the few it has--creepy, overly eccentric and unflattering.