The Yacoubian Building: A Novel

Paperback | August 1, 2006

byAlaa Al Aswany

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This controversial bestselling novel in the Arab world reveals the political corruption, sexual repression, religious extremism, and modern hopes of Egypt today.

All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building, a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo: a fading aristocrat and self-proclaimed "scientist of women"; a sultry, voluptuous siren; a devout young student, feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism; a newspaper editor helplessly in love with a policeman; a corrupt and corpulent politician, twisting the Koran to justify his desires.

These disparate lives careen toward an explosive conclusion in Alaa Al Aswany's remarkable international bestseller. Teeming with frank sexuality and heartfelt compassion, this book is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world.

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From the Publisher

This controversial bestselling novel in the Arab world reveals the political corruption, sexual repression, religious extremism, and modern hopes of Egypt today. All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building, a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown C...

Alaa Al Aswany is the internationally bestselling author ofThe Yacoubian BuildingandChicago. A journalist who writes a controversial opposition column, Al Aswany makes his living as a dentist in Cairo.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.61 inPublished:August 1, 2006Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0060878134

ISBN - 13:9780060878139

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Customer Reviews of The Yacoubian Building: A Novel

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Building of Egypt The controversy surrounding "The Yacoubian Building" upon its release is understandable as Alaa Al Aswany writes very frankly about human relationships, emotional and sexual, and on the state of political affairs in contemporary Egypt, which hopefully, with the recent revolution, will change for the better now. There will be challenges, since religion is so engrained in everyday affairs and the mindset of the Egyptian society. This is reflected strongly by how the movie adaptation, while sticking closely with the source material, failed to portray the gay character the way the novel did. The characters utilized in the plot reflected a certain aspect of society in Egypt: politics - corruption, instability; religion - fundamentalism, faith; and sexuality - sex, morality, homosexuality. Despite being of different social classes with varying standards of living and connections, all of them share a commonality - they, residents of the Yacoubian Building, were insulted, humiliated, or had some sort of injustice done to them. I must admit, the religion talk did bring some discomfort only because it was so hard to read about a character spiraling out of control and heading down the wrong path. This, however, is what makes the author and the novel so brilliant - taboo or not the topics, they elicit such raw, powerful emotions from the reader in response to them. While some falter, triumph some characters will as they emerge with a newfound understanding of their society, their nation, and more importantly, themselves. What was very much appreciated is the character list provided at the start of the novel and the glossary of Arabic terms used in the story. Not just a social or political context did they give, but also a cultural context to the way of life of the Egyptian people. The translation flowed, making the read easy yet very insightful with the content at hand.
Date published: 2011-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Insights into Human Suffering and Resilience The Yacoubian Building is a great read for anyone seeking a greater understanding of modern Egyptian society, or any place where people must cope with daily frustration and repression. Set in the streets of modern-day Cairo, this novel portrays the sometimes intersecting lives of residents of the Yacoubian Building. The building itself serves as a metaphor for the modern Egypt of the story: once grand and exciting, it has decayed over years of neglect. Its residents, in turn, must cope with political and personal frustrations on a daily basis. Among them is the story of Taha, whose life-long dream of becoming a police officer is crushed due to his low social standing, and who gradually turns to Islamic extremism. Busayna, his girlfriend, turns away from him and bitterly learns that the only way for her to make a living is to satisfy the sexual desires of older, wealthier men. Meanwhile, Hagg Azzam, an ambitious businessman-turned-politician, must learn to navigate the complexities of one-party authoritarian rule. Hatim Rasheed, the independently wealthy editor of the French-language newspaper, searches for love in the city's undercover gay nightlife. Throughout his thoughtful novel, Alaa al Aswany poignantly weaves each character's story with the frustrations of their society at large. In this manner, he adds depth and colour to a world that is too often misunderstood and caricaturized. But the Yacoubian Building also offers more than a glimpse of Egyptian society. In exploring how each character responds to the failures and frustrations imposed by external forces, Aswany touches on an aspect of the human condition that is crucial to truly empathizing with one another. While many of the characters take a somewhat predictable, and sometimes larger-than-life turn for the worse, a few characters stand out for their remarkable perseverance in an otherwise hopeless world. Of particular note is Zaki el Dessouki: an aging aristocrat, he spends his days in his office in the Yacoubian Building, often seducing younger women. As he grows increasingly nostalgic for the more European-influenced Egypt of the past, and increasingly isolated from his remaining family and those around him, he forms a surprising connection that offers a hopeful turn to an otherwise despondent story. The Yacoubian Building offers a quick and entertaining read for those seeking greater insight into contemporary Egypt, as well as for readers seeking an empathetic exploration of human suffering and resilience.
Date published: 2011-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful and Enlightening I knew very little of the politically harsh life in modern-day Egypt, so I found this book to be very educational, as well as moving. The lives of the wealthy and powerful, and the poor and disenfranchised, connect here. They all share the Yacoubian Building's spaces, whether in a spacious apartment, or in a corrugated iron shelter on the roof, and closing their doors cannot protect them from the snooping eyes and jealousies of their neighbours. The all-powerful, supposedly secular, modern state controls how they all live - to an extent we in the "First World" cannot appreciate. This is a story of corruption and pain, as well as true friendship and love, and is beautifully written in a way that takes you into the hearts and minds of all the characters.
Date published: 2007-11-02

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