Al-Aswany In The Press

The Chicago Tribune‘s Monica Eng catches up with Alaa’ Al-Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, which has become a best-seller in the Arab world, and which has just come out in the States. (If you hit a registration wall, use for a login/password combo.)

Set in a landmark Cairo building, the novel follows the lives of the straight and gay, rich and poor, and the secular and fundamentalist as they unravel and intertwine against the backdrop of the first Gulf war.

The book also serves as the backbone for a star-studded movie filming in Egypt and expected to be that country’s most expensive ever, costing an estimated $3 million. It’s already being hyped as the Egyptian “Ocean’s Eleven.”

Despite this success, life remains largely business as usual for the 48-year-old dentist. A recent warm Thursday afternoon found him in his spotless Cairo dental clinic after a day’s work and his customary afternoon nap. (…) “You can never make your living as novelist here because we don’t have rights,” he says in a tobacco-cured baritone. “And with the publishers here, you don’t really know how many books you’ve sold. Here we say if you don’t trust your publisher you multiply the number they told you by five. But if you do trust him, you only multiply it by three.”

I’m expecting a review copy of the book, and will report back once I receive and read it.

Related posts by Friday guest blogger Randa Jarrar:
Arabic Translations Up?
More Yacoubian Buildings.