Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany

This is a lovely novel.  Its focus is not on plot so much as on people; similar in that regard (at least to me) to the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.   The story centers on the Yacoubian Building in downtown Cairo, and some of its residents.  The building is the only common thread and the novel is all about the varied characters and their lives.  As such, there's no unifying denouement; at the end, we've had the enjoyment of learning about these folks and then the story is done.

Some reviews suggest that Al Aswany's book can't be fully enjoyed by someone who isn't familiar with Cairo or the political history of Egypt (at least up until 2002 when the book was first published).  I disagree.  These topics are supporting actors; the leads are the people and the author does a terrific job of bringing them to life, with texture and color.

The Yacoubian Building

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