Al Aswany, Alaa

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Al Aswany, Alaa

Alaa Al Aswany, 1957–, Egyptian author, b. Cairo. The son of a novelist-lawyer, he was trained as a dentist at Cairo Univ. (grad. 1980) and the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago (M.S., 1987) and has combined an active dental practice with a successful literary career. Al Aswany came to world attention with the publication of his novel The Yacoubian Building (2002, tr. 2006), which has since been translated into more than 20 languages. In bluntly simple language, the novel depicts contemporary Egypt through the stories of residents of one Cairo building, portraying severe class inequities, the corruption and hypocrisy of the rich and powerful, pervasive repression and violence, and the excesses of Islamic fundamentalism. Al Aswany's next book, Chicago (2007, tr. 2008), is a campus novel of clashing Egyptian and American cultures set in the post-9/11 era. He also has penned numerous short stories, some of which (and a novella) are translated in Friendly Fire: Ten Tales of Today's Cairo (2009). Since 1993 Al Aswany has written a monthly newspaper column on political and social issues; on the left politically, he was an outspoken critic of President Mubarak and a spokesman for the protest movement that brought him down in 2011. He also has criticized the military council that succeeded Mubarak.

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