I often treat suspiciously books that are claimed to be bestsellers and get awards. I don’t believe any longer in marketing slogans, because almost every book is a bestseller etc. But some books are worth of the praise they receive. One of such books is definitely The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany.
This is a story of several people in 1990’s Cairo, tho Al Aswany weaves into the story the tales of Egypt even from 30s. The people are of different social standings. Taha who is dreaming of becoming policeman, beautiful Busayna sexually harassed by employer, old playboy Zaki, a millionaire Azzam and a homosexual journalist Hatim and his lover Abduh (the last one a secondary character). All of them are linked somehow by The Yacoubian Building in Cairo (a real building, in fact).
The setting is richly coloured, when there are things related to Egyptian history or islam, there are footnotes. I felt the reality of the setting. The characters are believable. There are universal mechanisms shown in this book, in an Egyptian filter. I had a great time reading this book and I’d recommend it to anybody, no matter the genre preference.
I’ve read the book in Polish translation as “Kair, historia pewnej kamienicy“. Click the Polish title to get directed to my Polish review. The book was originally written in Arabic, but there are supposedly over 30 translations, in European and Asian languages.
My opinion: 10/10.
There is a film and TV series based on it. I’d like to watch the film at least.
Did you read The Yacoubian Building? What do you think?