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10 thoughts on “عمارة يعقوبيان

  1. says:

    Dispiriting I nearly tossed this into the nearest patch of long grass, as I got so thoroughly sick of the descriptions of boobs and buttocks, so impatient with the fact that ALL the women fell into only two categories young and therefore luscious and desirable, or old, and therefore no longer desirable Worst of all is old and skinny and yes, it says a LOT about me that I m particularly sensitive to this because old and skinny means you turn into a screeching termagant Somebody better warn my husband what do you mean too late HOW DARE YOU, I LL HAVE YOUR GUTS FOR GARTERS. Old and chunky on the other hand means you re at least allowed to be motherly, sorry, grandmotherly Even towards men who are older than you So that puts me on a strict regime of chocolate, ice cream, cream cake and biscuits, and NO SPORT There is an awful lot of sex in this book Or should that be a lot of awful sex Well, yes Their intercourse on the first night was simple and spontaneous, as though she had been his wife for years The rose opened to the touch of his fingers and he watered it than once till it was quenched. Cringe Maybe that sounds better in the original But it s not just the ho hum description, it s that sex is a marketable commodity That rose quotation describes simple and spontaneous congruence between Taha and the wife chosen for him by the Islamist brotherhood It is unique in the whole novel that it does not involve the obvious blandishments of money, or security, or the slightly subtle pretence of a considerate sensual dexterity that fools the young luscious, desirable victim into believing that the old lecher actually cares for her on any other level than pleasuring her and proving his amazing ability to do so.But then, since I m an old skinny harridan with a couple of brain cells to rub together, I began to think about WHY this made me so angry And it was the story of Suad, who desperately and fruitlessly tries to take control of her own body, who hopes to gain some dignity and human value by producing a child and is so shockingly frustrated in her aim that pointed up to me that in a society where women have no economic or political influence, the only thing that s left to them is the power to bestow sexual favours And the portrayal of homosexuality seems cliched in its sordidness, but then how can it be anything else in a society that makes something so natural illegal So this is what al Aswany does He uses these rather one dimensional figures to present what was wrong with Egyptian society under Mubarak And it reads a lot like trashy soap opera, the rather simplistic causality between poverty, despotic rule and abuse on one side and religious radicalisation on the other Aesthetically, not a delight But a drastic situation requires drastic means And if this is your view of the Egyptian people, Our Lord created the Egyptians to accept government authority No Egyptian can go against his government Some peoples are excitable and rebellious by nature but the Egyptian keeps his head down his whole life long so he can eat It says so in the history books The Egyptians are the easiest people in the world to rule The moment you take power, they submit to you and grovel to you and you can do what you want with them. thankfully proved wrong by the events of the Arab Spring , then it s drastic means that you need And you know what s really dispiriting The nagging suspicion that Western readers will mistake a version of what s wrong with the system for a proof of what s wrong with the people.

  2. says:

    Narrators tell stories protagonists tell them characters in novels do, too But in The Yacoubian Building, an apartment complex on a downtown street tells the story of a whole nation This ten story structure, I found, has a lot to say.The building doesn t talk, of course, but it shelters the many people whose lives the book recounts Brought together only by their place of residence, these very different people are, by the end, brought together in a second way, by the common experience of life in modern Egypt Just what it s like to live in Egypt is the real story No number of articles about the Middle East can convey a feeling, so instead of telling us directly, the author paints a picture, a mosaic with a gestalt to it that makes the whole picture of Egypt suddenly pop into view This shocking image is a sight.The character sketches at the start of the book give readers a glimpse of the daily lives and passions of the denizens of the building, who represent every class of society As they go about their lives, the latter portion of the narrative shows them stumbling into a world bearing a sordid resemblance to something George Orwell might have concocted.In this world, it goes without saying that merit is seldom rewarded Money, not law, makes things happen, even bad things People wake up at night to find the police in their living rooms or maybe thugs hired by some rich man Anyone can end up in a police station at any time, some never again to be seen Torture, brutality, beatings and weird, weird sexism constitute everyday hazards.The story of the building itself, told mainly through the eyes of a long time resident, stands as a proxy for the bittersweet change that has swept over Egypt in the past two generations This book hints at the actual sources of Egypt s current problems in reality, people dare not discuss them openly.Curiously, the book cannot be said to have an entirely negative feel Egyptians simply don t have it in them to collapse into a Russian style pessimism In the book s moral I found its power The narrative conveys not one, but many messages about the state of Egyptian society In each you can find yourself saying, So what has become obvious is The book allows you to think about many things as you read.Readers will like the artful approach the author employs, as the choice of a building to tell the story implies Al Aswany relates his characters with a confidential tone, as if he were in a private conversation with us His candid remarks about each character tell us everything we need to know about the character without saying too much The story neither droops into sentimentality nor takes a desultory turn The writing is clean and efficient, with the right things said at the right time using no extra words.The stories themselves are enough to stagger the senses, considering the society from which they emerge The book has been a bestseller in Egypt, its subject matter so controversial that people never run out of things to say about it.I rate this a four I really like it If it were a little longer, I d give it a five because it s that good I highly recommend The Yacoubian Building for anyone who likes good literature, and for Westerners in search of realistic insight into the question, What on earth is going on over there

  3. says:

    I ve read this book twice now Once before coming to Egypt and again this summer, having lived in Egypt for two years.The first time I read it, I truly believed that the situations that happened within it were exaggerated for artistic license Now It s all true No artistic license needed Just straight forward truth I see so many of these things happening, and many besides.Al Aswany s depiction of Egyptian life, his clever way of writing about Egypt s elite and corrupt, making sure readers in the know know who he is on about, without actually naming names, is superb As I read page after page, I recognised the some of the unnamed, and the named, areas, the hang outs, the streets, I couldn t believe how much I enjoyed the book, and was deeply saddened by it It also felt as though I was reading a completely different book The image I had in my head after reading it the first time was that it was nus nus 50 50 of reality and fiction, now it s maya maya 100% Egyptian life.I am surprised it was ever allowed to be published during the falool old regime period of Egypt, or that Al Aswany s life wasn t the target of political imprisonment or the secret police Some of the subjects are so taboo in Egyptian life that I am surprised the morality police were not all over it It made me laugh, it made me angry, especially when the bawaab s son caretaker s son was sidelined from following his dream that led to his ultimate extremism as is the case in so many cultures and countries, not just Egypt.A great read that is also a cultural lesson through fiction Read it and learn about all the things Egyptians would rather you forget about, and learn about the things that led to the most impressive revolutions the world has seen to date.

  4. says:

    It reminded me of Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz in the sense that the author takes an area an alley in Cairo in the case of Mahfouz, a building in al Aswani s book and portrays the lives and souls of the varied characters connected to it But the author didn t feel as a cheap imitator of Mahfouz he had his own talent and originality.It is funny that I read it while the Egyptian revolution of February 2011 was going on The book gave me an insight into the contemporary Egyptians lives and problems I really liked it.

  5. says:

    A handful of intertwining stories all passing through The Yacoubian Building in downtown Cairo, I read this in one plane trip from Texas to SC I couldn t put it down And not just for the sexual content, which I m sure is the reason half the people who read this pick it up Controversial in Egypt Oh my It has interesting insight into relationships of all kinds homosexual men in a society that may look the other way if they like you enough, women who marry to support their families, and the rights of children after the death of a parent At rare and exceptional moments Souad Gaber appears as she really is A look suddenly flashes from her eyes like a spark and her face recovers its original appearance, exactly as an actor returns to his own character on finishing a role, takes off his costume, and wipes the makeup off his face On such occasions, a serious, slowly awakening look suggestive of a certain degree of hardness and determination appears on Souad s face and reveals her true nature that spark will flash in her eyes confirming that her mind never stops working, even in the heat of passion In an interesting conversation about patriotism A person has to love his country because his country is his mother Does anyone hate his mother I d say that s a pretty loaded question.

  6. says:

    Egypt is in the news today for all the wrong reasons But when I witness the turmoil there, I perceive a silver lining this is the birth pain of a true democracy.I have had a lifelong love affair with Egypt, ever since I studied about pharaohs and the pyramids and hieroglyphics in middle school I have seen the similarity with India, the paradox of being immensely rich culturally and dirt poor monetarily Visiting the country had been my secret dream, which was realised three years ago.I read this novel before visiting Egypt and after my visit, I could only marvel at how Aswany has succeeded in bringing the multifaceted country under one roof, that of the Yacoubian building Capturing the macrocosm in the microcosm, when done by gifted writers, produces wonders.I am increasing my rating from 3 to 4 stars on second thoughts.I pray the events in Egypt, for all the tragedy and angst, end on a positive note like the novel.

  7. says:

    I guess Alaa Al Aswany owes some to Naguib Mahfouz.I could recognize the Cairo I visited many years ago, and even as a stranger in a strange city it gave me a warm feeling.Considering the melting pot Cairo is, it is not at all strange to find a house with a number of so diverse inhabitants but Alaa Al Aswany uses it as an instructor would use the scene presenting a time when everything you used to know is breaking up and yet unchanged.There is a lot of love for his countrymen, but also political skepticism and analysis, bringing out that there are no beds of roses.

  8. says:

    I enjoyed reading The Yacoubian Building but I can t resist analyzing its weaknesses.The premise of The Yacoubian Building is a credible one I did not sense that the setting of the story, the placement of a varied selection of individuals in close proximity with one another, all residents in one building is merely fictional license The novel is a frank representative depiction of contemporary Egyptian urban settings, with enough historical and cultural background to explain the finer details of each character s history and motivations.Yet there is something missing in this tapestry In this group portrait, the intertwining of the separate threads, although executed in vibrant and expressive strokes, seems to have been drawn at the expense of any depth of focus There is no clear primary character, nor a central question that is developed to a sufficiently complex degree to make this a novel of substance where the reader can either empathize with a character or be intrigued by a theme that develops as the story progresses.There s a lack of originality in terms of authorial persepctive intention, and the closing scenes of each character s subplot don t quite follow from what precedes them, so that ultimately the characters are reduced to moralistic symbolic entities rather than multidimensional personalities The characters begin their tales interestingly enough, but ultimately their respective closures appear forced, as if there is only one way their story could end, as if they are conforming to convention even if the convention is a fictive one In the case of Busayna, with regard to her financial concerns, it would seem to me that she would be likely to take a practical route, rather than resort to the honorable solution marriage to her existential dilemma In terms of character development Busayna s and Zaki s pairing doesn t follow through from their prior behavior or motivations The union of old age as well as tradition with the new young is schematic rather than realistic, a compromise rather than a progression Similarly, Abduh s and Hatim s climactic confrontation contextually does not add up, given the way their relationship was presented so far Hatim s outbursts seem far beneath his prior composure and generosity, esp after all that he s done for Abduh The decline of Hatim s behavior is a throwback to East Mediterranean cultural cliches of several decades ago as with the overall nostalgia of the novel for an Egypt which no longer exists when popular culture mandated that sexual transgression is a force that ultimately implodes upon itself Granted, Al Aswany pushes the limits, within the scope of Egyptian cultural realities, by presenting Abduh Hatim s relationship in explicit terms, and by giving that relationship equal time and exposure in relation to the other parallel plots of the novel Yet the conclusion is color by numbers what is expected within the reality of a society still in the process of evolving from feudal patriarchal behavioral motivations to contemporary standards I cannot fully comprehend El Aswany s point, in terms of any possible socio political commentary there might be in this anachronism As a critique of contemporary Arab society where men regardless of position and background, no longer operate according to the spirit of patriarchal codes of conduct I feel that the novel is incomplete All sense of justice, faith, honor, respect seems to have decayed into crass abuse of the system which gives them power The social confusion over these social values is most evident when the youthful Taha, whose male honor has been violated, seeks redress in an unmanly dishonorable way But I venture that it s only the non Arab reader who sees this, for according to the tribal traditions, both Abduh and Taha have cleansed themselves of dishonor by avenging their respective oppressors On the other hand, for the women there is no apparent redress, as in the example of Busayna when her honor is violated the public humiliation at being arrested for prostitution is her restitution only possible through marriage It appears that Al Aswany has nothing new to say regarding the juxtaposition between the strict moral codes women must still appear to adhere to, an anachronistic tradition that persists despite a governing system proclaiming itself as modern, democratic, socialist, etc We observe members of the political system and the religious administration as men who unashamedly foregoes ideological principles when it is convenient to their shortterm aims the sheikh agreeing to convince Souad to have an abortion when pressured by his longtime financial benefactor, and when men enter politics only for the purpose of securing financial success through extortion and bribery, also when radical religious leaders force a young recruit to a marriage with a martyr s widow, even as they are planning the young man s own martyrdom, and condemning the bride to a second round of widowhood Even she, the martyr s widow that Taha is set up with in the Brotherhood training camp, is regressing into patriarchal feudal traditions since she believes progress change is possible only by a return of the old codes of honor Does Al Aswany conclude that the situation cannot be rectified when the men resisting it are themselves oppressors of men as well as women I m not sure that it can be interpreted with conviction In this respect, I felt the novel is incomplete, that whatever lasting message the novel intended to convey has been left unsaid.

  9. says:

    It s Cairo, and nearby the US is launching it s invasion into Kuwait.The author was a dentist and he fills his book with the lives of the occupants of the Yacoubian Building The poor live on the roof, the rich in once luxury apartments that are now showing signs of wear and tear The author drills into the lives, extracting all of the sins of humanity He also uses one character to talk about the rise of Islamic supporters who wish to rid the country of all of it s corruption and Western ways.It s an interesting x ray into Cairo in the early 90s as the seeds of change are implanted.

  10. says:

    A soap opera story of the people who live in a Cairo mid rise apartment building We have all walks of life from the super wealthy in suites to the down and out who constitute a mini community of rooftop dwellers, and hangers out at a gay bar in the basement of the building The book gives us a wealth of information about life in Cairo We learn of the many foreigners who live in the city, many Christians, and how almost everyone manages to evade traditional Muslim norms People drink and smoke Young women learn to compromise their strict values to get ahead working for the dirty old men who run businesses and shops Even gays manage to have their own special spots and night clubs The plot follows the lives of a few folks in detail A wealthy homosexual a rich businessman who takes a second wife late in life and earns his sister s undying hate, and a few street smart con men A good part of the story follows one young couple he is religious and an idealist and wants to be a police officer she is street smart and is one of those willing to compromise herself to get ahead He ends up falsely accused of ant government activity and is imprisoned and tortured In the ends turns to anti government terrorism A good book with a lot of local color of Cairo in the 1990 s.

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