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Those rooms had life

Sameer Rahim: The Yacoubian Building, 10 May 2007

The Yacoubian Building 
by Alaa al-Aswany, translated by Humphrey Davies.
Fourth Estate, 255 pp., £14.99, February 2007, 978 0 00 724361 7
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... it’s the largest in the Middle East – makes it difficult to control. The film adaptation of Alaa al-Aswany’s bestselling novel, The Yacoubian Building, which exposes sexual harassment, police brutality and political corruption in modern Egypt, released last year, quickly recouped its $3 million budget (the highest ever for an Arab movie). The ...

We’ll win or lose it here

Robert F. Worth: Lessons from Tahrir Square, 21 September 2017

The City Always Wins 
by Omar Robert Hamilton.
Faber, 312 pp., £14.99, August 2017, 978 0 571 33517 6
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Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt 
by Yasmine El Rashidi.
Tim Duggan, 181 pp., £11.70, June 2017, 978 0 7704 3729 9
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... claimed to me at the time, it isn’t easy terrain for fiction writers. The Egyptian novelist Alaa al Aswany became famous for telling the crowds in the square that that ‘a revolution is like falling in love.’ He didn’t add that people fall out of love. Describing the floods of emotion that one feels at the barricades – in prose, at any rate ...

Sisi’s Turn

Hazem Kandil: What does Sisi want?, 20 February 2014

... to lock them up. Revolutionary artists (including such international celebrities as the novelist Alaa al-Aswany and the comedian Bassem Youssef) were now regarded with growing suspicion, while the most despised propagandists of the Mubarak era were praised. It became clear that the Brothers and the would-be revolutionaries were to foot the bill for ...

Travelling Text

Marina Warner: ‘The Arabian Nights’, 18 December 2008

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, with Ursula Lyons.
Penguin, 2715 pp., £125, November 2008, 978 0 14 091166 4
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‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context: Between East and West 
edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum.
Oxford, 337 pp., £55, November 2008, 978 0 19 955415 7
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... Nights to the Middle East and its impact on the modern Arabic novel. The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al-Aswany, published too recently to be included in Jarrar’s discussion, continues the process: an enthralling piece of storytelling as well as a brave and straight-dealing account of Cairo, al-Aswany’s novel ...

Black, not Noir

Adam Shatz: Sonallah Ibrahim, 7 March 2013

‘That Smell’ and ‘Notes from Prison’ 
by Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Robyn Creswell.
New Directions, 110 pp., £11.99, March 2013, 978 0 8112 2036 1
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... The lack of normalising judgment, much less homophobia, in his work stands in contrast to, say, Alaa al-Aswany’s Yacoubian Building, where gays are represented as sex-crazed, dandified predators. Ibrahim stumbled on his subject, and his style, by accident. After his release from prison in 1964, he planned to write a novel about the construction of ...

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