Thursday, May 22, 2014

Aswany's The Yacoubian Building

Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building (first published in 2002) takes a Cairo building as a microcosm of Egyptian society just after the launch of the first Gulf War, showing how the country has slid into decay. The disillusioned youth who moves toward radical Islam, the class differences, manipulation (and sometimes abuse) of women, the corruption and gaming of the system, and more.

What struck me was how this could've been a novel of authoritarian Latin America. In place of radical Islam put Marxism, where young people try unsuccessfully to engage with the corrupt system so then fight against it and the hegemon they see behind it. It's a society warped by autocratic rule and is leading nowhere good as a result. So it is engaging but will certainly not uplift you.


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