Friday, March 21, 2008

The Yacoubian Building

Reading literature about a particular city gives you insight into the mores and character of that community. This is true of Alaa Al Aswany's novel from 2002, The Yacoubian Building (ImaratYa'qubyan). I found the novel both well written and structured. Using the title building as his center Aswany portrays a diverse group of contemporary Cairenes to demonstrate the experience of living in the world of Egypt today. The author presents the issues of political corruption, class conflict and the "science" of love in a believable narrative; however, I found his portrayal of homosexuality less effective: sensitive at times but ultimately concluding with a stereotypically brutal end for the spurned lover. The difficulties of living in this society are highlighted as the novel moves smoothly from episode to episode building toward a climax that, while somewhat melodramatic, brings the story to an effective conclusion. Overall the complex narrative and view of the city of Cairo made this an engaging and satisfying read.

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany. Harper Perennial, New York. 2006 (2002).

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