The Yacoubian Building
Author: Alaa Al Aswany
Translator: Humphrey Davies
Original language: Arabic
Published by: Fourth Estate, 2007
This exceptional Egyptian novel – as mesmerising as it is controversial – caused an unprecedented stir when it was first published in Arabic. Welcome to the Yacoubian Building, Cairo: once grand, now dilapidated, and full of stories and passion. Some live in squalor on its rooftop while others inhabit the faded glory of its apartments and offices. Within these walls religious fervour jostles with promiscuity; bribery with bliss; modern life with ancient culture. At ground level, Taha, the doorman’s son, harbours career aspirations and romantic dreams – but when these are dashed by unyielding corruption, hope turns to bitterness, with devastating consequences.
‘A superbly crafted feat of storytelling.’
The book was the inspiration for the highest-budget Arabic-language film ever, which was released to much acclaim in 2006.
In February 2007 Alaa Al Aswany was in discussion about the novel at Foyle's in Charing Cross Road.