The Real Yacoubian

Ursula Lindsey goes in search of the real-life Yacoubian building, where Alaa Al-Aswany’s best-selling novel, The Yacoubian Building, is set.

For the actual residents of the Yacoubian, all this [media hype] translates into much unwanted attention. The novel’s blunt depiction of the sexual and financial exploitation to which its characters subject each other reflects badly on its real-life counterparts, they say.

“People call it the building of homosexuality, of prostitution,” says Edward Kamil, one of the building’s administrators. “Not the Yacoubian building. There are characters in the book who have the same name as real people. It’s a novel but it deals with real people and a real place.’

You know where this is headed, don’t you? Let’s just say the lawyers are really happy. It annoys me how this sort of thing happens whenever a book does well. Some individuals get all cranky and start looking for similarities with real life. Take a deep breath, people, and repeat after me, “It’s fiction! It’s ficton!”

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