Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany

The title refers to an Art-Deco building built in pre-1940's Egypt when the middle-classed elites modeled themselves on the Europeans. The building has degenerated and seems to be represented by a relic from the past - Zaki an ageing sweet-man now fallen on Hard Times.
The building is invaded by hustlers from the Street, stereotypes abound but gives a good insight into the way people have to survive in a society with fairly rigid social mores - for instance, social mobility is restricted for the young, intelligent son of the door-keeper and in frustration gets the recognition he craves from joining the Islamists and dabbles in 'terrorism'. The book gives a good personal view of Egypt from pre-Independence Days to the mid-2000's. The lot of the women still seem to be dependent on the men in their lives- much to Narwal Al Saadawi's chargrin I imagine.
The book had a surprising ending for me but I guess a realistic one.

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