REVIEW: The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

I found this book at the same store where I bought my other “magic book”, A Golden Age (Tahmima Anam).

The book was on my wishlist, and then somehow I managed to find it at the store near my office. At a much discounted price. Yeah!!

This is a very famous novel which turned the author into a celebrity writer; a movie ( which was Egypt’s submission to 79th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film)and a TV series was made by the same name. The story focuses on the characters residing (mostly) in the Yacoubian Building and how their fates converge eventually. With corruption, adultery, religion, power and sex as main themes of the novel, the author narrates the story in a very casual manner, with a heavy dose of comedy; you wouldn’t have enough time to sympathize with any one character because you never know what they will do next. Everyone is scheming and conniving on their own, for their individual reason. Some do it out of desperation, some are just plain selfish, and mostly for survival.

The author also explores some taboo subjects like homosexuality openly in the novel, with some thought-provoking questions and statements. Some characters come as headstrong ( the rich and priveleged ones, naturally), but most of the others appear to be confused and somewhat victimised by the nation’s political and socio-economic condition.

The political situation and the deterioration of the highly civilized Egyptian society from its heyday to now a crumbling, detestable bunch of people parallels with the current state of modern Cairo. The older generation in regret and recluse, while the younger ones are full of hatred and miserable; The Yacoubian Building makes a very interesting read.

Though the story ends rather abruptly, and in a very sweet, fairytale manner (I least expected that, especially with so much tension building up for each of the characters), this is definitely a book I enjoyed very much and would recommend to everyone.

 

P/S: I’m going to find the movie now and maybe the author’s other book, Chicago.

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