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The Yacoubian Building: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2006
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“[A] hilarious, sensual, bawdy and beautiful novel.” (Nerve)
“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
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Set in the late 20th century Egypt, after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the Yacoubian Building started filling up with people from Egypt's lower class, while some others from the upper and middle classes stayed put. This has given Al Aswany the opportunity to develop many interesting characters. There is a son of the doorman who struggles to make a career as a policeman, even after being good at his studies and what he does after that. His beautiful young girlfriend, who performs sexual favors for little money. A rich homosexual man, whose boyfriend moves into the building with his wife and kid. A religious old man with dreams of being a politician. His second wife, a divorced lady from a porer region of Egypt. A pre-Revolution single rich man whose life has declined dramatically after the Revolution. His girlfriends. His servant and his brother, a tailor by profession, who moves into the building.
The lives of these characters overlap and interact with each other; but otherwise, this book "feels" like a collection of short stories. Please note that they are not separate stories though.
Al Aswany's characters are well-developed and thought out in detail. The characters go through a change in their lives over the course of several events. The reasons compelling these changes are beautifully pointed out by the author: poverty, sexual desparation, corruption, failure in career, etc.
Being translated from Arabic into English, the prose is not of high quality. Some of the sentences actually feel odd because of this.
There are lots of references to Egyptian culture, but I never felt lost or confused (I am not an Egyptian or an Arab, or in any way related). Having never visited Egypt, I still understood the book well. (Of course, I had an interest in knowing more about the culture.)
The X-Ray feature of Kindle is not enabled for this book. It would have been helpful to avoid referring to the glossary section at the back of the book. Still, it did not make the book overwhelming to read.
Since the decade in which the book has been mainly set, Egypt has undergone lots of socio-political changes. Lives of common Egyptians has definitely changed. However, this book captures the late 1900s and the struggles in the lives of common people well.
Overall, it is a good book to get a perspective on modern Egyptian culture.
Each character is so well draw that I feel I could recognize each one if I passed them in the street.
The story is interesting and well told but what is more important is the way Al Aswary makes you feel as if you were living in Cairo.