Book: The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany
Genre and Year of Publication: Fiction, 2004
Where I got it: Bought in The Open Door used book shop (paperback, translated from Arabic) (read in July; reviewed in October)
Length: 256 pages
Briefly, it weaves together the stories of the lives of various people who live in the same apartment complex in contemporary Cairo.
Comments: I first came across Alaa Al Aswany through his short story “Mme Zitta Mendès, a Last Image” in The Granta Book of the African Short Story, and when I saw this book in the used book store I immediately picked it up. It wasn’t exactly an easy read, but it was a worthwhile one. The interlocking stories of the various residents of this once upmarket but now pretty run-down building portray all kinds of human situations. The limited options of many people, and the consequent fatalism or despair into which they fall are realistically portrayed. Most eye-opening for me, was the depiction of the young man who becomes involved in an extremist Islamic movement – eye-opening because credible.
I’ll be passing this book on to someone else to enjoy.
Read the Goodreads comments for more insightful reviews.
Challenges: 2014 Africa Reading Challenge