Captivating all senses….The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany


One fine day my casual browsing through shelves, led me to get hold of this book , pretty much accidentally, from Erindale library, Canberra….

Alaa Al Aswany reminded me once again, how captivating reading can be by his book -The Yacoubian Building… well, what did I like about writing of Aswany.? Mostly his honest and straight forward way of telling a story… weaving of a social fabric of colour…. throbbing with moments of life…revealing passions of life in a practical way.. the list will go longer.

The Yacoubian Building paints a picture about Egyptian society and infact tells several stories of life about few different characters. The life centres around this housing or apartment complex in it’s basic form. The set up and characters are familiar to me as I myself have the roots of hailing from a humble third world society.

The Egyptian  society this book puts on table, is so much full of events and life’s public and intimate moments. On one hand it is a shattered dream of a young chap who wanted to be a police officer but never achieve it because of not so fair society he lives in… at the same time there is this gay editor runs after pleasures of life in this complex society full of secret lives.. .. and there is this young woman who tries to take chances with her life to gain a financial gains exploiting her sexuality in a Muslim society with strict rules.

Also the writer gives a compassionate picture about the social problems in a life full of mess, in a typical third world set up. What makes the extremists of religion? Is it a fault of religion or the social problems? What are the reasons for young men to take the guns and shoot…. can we ever think in the shoes of them.. not to justify, but to understand the root causes..

A good  novel is always captivating.. it describes how a religiously ‘devoted’ businessman’s life get captivated by desires and how he justifies it with a second marriage to a woman, who has her own desires in life.

The life here gives a hint of an elite society, wich few enjoys, taking advantage of wealth and power. It is also a society studded with few ancient relics of French culture as a result of French domination in the history. This cultural mix gives totally different dimension to the characters. It makes a sweet exciting reading….

I researched more about the author and started reading another book by him- Chicago…. Another reading adventure.. hope to write a brief soon…


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