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Yacoubians hus by Ala Aswani
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Yacoubians hus (original 2002; edition 2007)

by Ala Aswani

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1,465735,100 (3.57)201
Member:katnys
Title:Yacoubians hus
Authors:Ala Aswani
Info:Hr. Ferdinand, 2007
Collections:Your library
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The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany (2002)

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English (46)  French (7)  Italian (6)  Dutch (3)  Danish (3)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Finnish (1)  Galician (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (73)
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Any Egyptian novelist writing today is liable to be compared to Nobel-prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, although Alaa Al Aswany's status as a public intellectual does not require a comparison with anyone. Still, his depiction of the characters in the Yacoubian Building, at least as translated into English by Humphrey Davies, bears a similarity to Mahfouz's approach in the books of his that I can recall: the characters are depicted fairly flatly; their emotional states are named and shown; their motives are sometimes complex but never ambiguous. One way in which the Yacoubian Building is quite different from Mahfouz' novels: Al Aswany is interested in the way people's characters shape their lives, but, at least in this book, he doesn't have any of Mahfouz' focus on how traits are handed down in families across the generations. For Al Aswany, the passing of decades is prior to the story, and is a record of social and politial change for the worse, not about family continuity.

The Yacoubian Building starts slowly, with interesting character sketches, but no compelling plot - but then the story begins to pick up after about 60 pages. The social commentary - on politial corruption, on economic oppression, on sexual double standards - is implicit but strong. The treatment of Islamic extremism is particularly interesting: sympathetic, in that a key character's turn toward extremism is presented as a perfectly coherent response to Egyptian society's corruption and lack of social mobility, and the extremists themselves are ethical, honorable people; but extremism is also presented as a self-destructive dead end. More generally, the book is underpinned with a clear sense of a moral order. Characters can cause each other a great deal of unmerited grief, but most if not all the characters eventually suffer (or more rarely, enjoy) outcomes that, however random on the surface, are an outgrowth of their choices to treat others well or poorly. In that sense, while the story can be read as a liberal critique of the grief caused traditional religious and social mores (as well as by personal greed), it affirms rather than subverts a progressive, culturally (not theologically) Islamic worldview. ( )
  bezoar44 | Aug 17, 2015 |
The Yacoubian Building written by Alaa AL Aswany is the story of the residents of a 'faded glory' building in downtown Cairo. Living in the main building itself, there is Zaki Bey el Dessouki, an aging playboy, who's main concern is his next female conquest and his one legged servant Abaskharon. Then there's Hatim Rasheed, the editor in chief of a french newspaper in Cairo and an eccentric homosexual. Finally there's Hagg Muhammad Azzam, a corrupt, drug dealing, businessman who wants to enter politics and is willing to bribe his way in. On the roof living in tiny rooms is another level of society. Taha el Shazli is a dedicated student making good grades but is rejected by the Police Academy because his father is a doorman. Busayna is a graduate of the Commercial College and is overwhelmed by the overt sexual harassment in the workplace. Malak is a shirtmaker by trade and relentless is his pursuit of property on the roof. Finally, there is Abd Rabbuh, the lover of Hatim.

The characters are all extremely flawed, which makes them believable. Even so, the author sucks the reader into their stories. There are twists and turns that reflect the current politics and ideals in Cairo. It is an interesting book and worth reading, but don't look for too many happy endings. ( )
  ElizabethBraun | Apr 10, 2015 |
I would actually have liked to give The Yacoubian Building 3.5 stars: I more than liked it, though I'm not sure yet if I really liked it. I found it difficult reading at first because the tone held me at a distance (and something I want to think about more is how to locate the narrator, or the narration, in relation to the characters and in relation to some of the attitudes on display). There's a kind of bluntness or lack of nuance in the telling of the stories. But by the end of the novel I found I was very engaged with all of the stories and by the overall sense you get of seeing a microcosm of a complex, conflicting and conflicted society dominated by a paradoxical and often toxic combination of greed, corruption, and love (or the longing for love). Fuller comments to come on the blog--as well as discussion at this month's Slaves of Golconda session.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
Author is dentist in Cairo writing about an office building....book scandalous at the time because of its sexual frankness...now widely translated and a movie....great read
  wcbookclub | Jan 15, 2014 |
Egypt is in the news today for all the wrong reasons. But when I witness the turmoil there, I perceive a silver lining: this is the birth pain of a true democracy.

I have had a lifelong love affair with Egypt, ever since I studied about pharaohs and the pyramids and hieroglyphics in middle school. I have seen the similarity with India, the paradox of being immensely rich culturally and dirt poor monetarily. Visiting the country had been my secret dream, which was realised three years ago.

I read this novel before visiting Egypt: and after my visit, I could only marvel at how Aswany has succeeded in bringing the multifaceted country under one roof, that of the Yacoubian building. Capturing the macrocosm in the microcosm, when done by gifted writers, produces wonders.

I am increasing my rating from 3 to 4 stars on second thoughts.

I pray the events in Egypt, for all the tragedy and angst, end on a positive note - like the novel. ( )
  Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alaa Al Aswanyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alibek, PiusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davies, HumphreyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To My Guardian Angel - Iman Taymur
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The distance between Baehler Passage, where Zaki Bey el Dessouki lives, and his office in the Yacoubian Building is not more than a hundred meters, but it takes him an hour to cover it each morning as he is obliged to greet his friends on the street.
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Original title: 'Imarat Ya'qubyan
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060878134, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:16 -0400)

The lives and fortunes of the inhabitants of the Yacoubian Building, a once elegant, Art Deco apartment building in the heart of downtown Cairo, intertwine as the destinies of a fading aristocrat, voluptuous siren, devout young doorman, secretly gay newspaper editor, roof- squatting tailor, and corrupt politician come together.… (more)

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