Alaa Al Aswany
|Born||26 May 1957|
|Occupation||writer and novelist|
|Alma mater||Cairo University
University of Illinois at Chicago
|Notable work(s)||The Yacoubian Building
|Notable award(s)||Bashraheel Award for Arabic Novel
The International Cavafi Award
Tiziano Terzani Literary Award
|Spouse(s)||Eman Taymoor (1993-present)|
Early Life and career
Aswany was born on 26 May 1957. His mother, Zainab, came from an aristocratic family; her uncle was a Pasha and Minister of Education before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. His father, Abbas Al-Aswany, was from Aswan and was a lawyer and writer who “is remembered as being a captivating and charismatic speaker with a broad following and loyalty within a cross-section of the Egyptian revolutionary intelligentsia”. Abbas Al-Aswany wrote a regular back-page essay in the Egyptian weekly magazine Rose al-Yūsuf entitled Aswaaniyat. In 1972, he was “the recipient of the state award for literature". He died when Alaa was nineteen years old.
Aswany attended Le Lycée Français in Cairo and received a bachelor's degree in dental and oral medicine at Cairo University in 1980. He went on to pursue a master's degree in dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1985. He speaks Arabic, English, French and Spanish. He studied Spanish literature in Madrid.
Al-Aswany married his first wife in his early twenties, she was a dentist, and they had their son Seif, they divorced later. When he was 37, he married Eman Taymoor and they had two daughters, Mai and Nada.
He wrote a weekly literary critique entitled “parenthetic phrase” in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Sha'ab, and then became responsible for the culture page in the same newspaper. He wrote a monthly political article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Nasseri and a weekly article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Dustour. Then, he wrote a weekly article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk. Currently, he writes a weekly article in Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesdays. His articles have been published in leading international newspapers such as the New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais, The Guardian, The Independent and others.
His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, has been widely read in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. His literary works have been translated into 31 languages: English, Greek, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Chinese Simplified, Dutch, Turkish, Malay, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Armenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Polish, Portuguese, Icelandic, French, Slovenian, Galician, Spanish, Estonian, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Korean, Swedish, German and Slovak. In 2006, The Yacoubian Building was adapted into “the biggest budget movie ever produced in Egypt”. The movie was screened at international film festivals and was a huge hit in Egypt. However, Alaa Al-Aswany was banned from attending the premiere. The Yacoubian Building is one of a few movies that addresses social taboos and widespread governmental corruption, such as the rigging of elections. In fact, many intellectuals believe that this work played a crucial role in triggering revolutionary sentiments among the Egyptian people. Alaa Al-Aswany claims that during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, many protesters approached him and said “We are here because of what you wrote". And in 2007, The Yacoubian Building was made into a television series of the same name.
Chicago, a novel set in the city in which the author was educated, was published in January 2007.
Al-Aswany’s name has also been included in the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan. He was number one in The Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers list 2011.
In October 2010 The Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI) said it was offering its Hebrew readers the rare privilege of reading the best-selling Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building. While Alaa Al-Aswany refused for the book to be translated into Hebrew and published in Israel, a volunteer had translated it and the IPCRI wanted to offer it for free to expand cultural awareness and understanding in the region. Al-Aswany was deeply frustrated by this, as he rejected the idea of normalizing with Israel, and accused the IPCRI and the translator of piracy and theft. Consequently, he complained to the International Publishers Association.
Role in the Revolution
Al-Aswany was in Tahrir Square each of the 18 days before Mubarak fell from power. In fact, he was one of the few prominent faces of the leaderless revolution. Following Mubarak’s resignation, Alaa Al-Aswany confronted the Mubarak-appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik on an Egyptian channel. Shafik lost his temper under persistent grilling by the novelist and it was the first time for Egyptians to witness a ruler dressed down so severely by a civilian in public. Consequently, it is said that Shafik was fired by the SCAF.
Bibliography (in Arabic)
- 1990: Awrak Issam Abdel Aty, (Arabic: أوراق عصام عبد العاطى, "The Papers of Essam Abdel Aaty")
- 2002: Imārat Ya‘qūbiān, (Arabic: عمارة يعقوبيان, "The Yacoubian Building")
- 2007: Chicago, (Arabic: شيكاجو)
- 2013: Nadi As-Sayarat, (Arabic: نادي السيارات, "The Automobile Club")
- 1990: Allazi Ektarab Wa Ra'a, (Arabic: الذى اقترب و رأى, "Who Approached And Saw")
- 1998: Gam'eyet Montazeri Al-Za'eem, (Arabic: جمعية منتظرى الزعيم, "Waiting for a Leader")
- 2004: Nīrān sadīqa, (Arabic: نيران صديقة, "Friendly Fire")
- 2010: Limatha la Yathour El Masriyoon, (Arabic: لماذا لا يثور المصريون؟, "Why Don't Egyptians Revolt?")
- 2011: Hal nastahiqq al-dimoqratiyya?, (Arabic: هل نستحق الديمقراطية؟, "Do We Deserve Democracy?")
- 2011: Misr Ala Dikkat al-ehteyaty", (Arabic: مصر على دكة الإحتياطى, "Egypt on The Reserve Bench")
- 2012: Hal Akhta'at Al-Thawra Al-Misreyya?, (Arabic: هل أخطأت الثورة المصرية؟, "Did the Egyptian Revolution Go Wrong?")
- Alaa al Aswany, On the State of Egypt: What Caused the Revolution, Jonathan Wright, The American University in Cairo Press, 2011
- Alaa al Aswany, Friendly Fire: Ten Tales of Today’s Cairo, Humphrey Davies (translator), The American University in Cairo Press, 2008
- Alaa al Aswany, Chicago, Farouk Abdel Wahab (translator), The American University in Cairo Press, 2008
- Alaa al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building, HarperPerennial, 2007
- Alaa al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building, Fourth Estate, 2007
- Alaa al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building, Humphrey Davies (translator), HarperPerennial, 2006
- Alaa al Aswany, The Yacoubian Building, Humphrey Davies (translator), The American University in Cairo Press, 2004
- 2005: KSA Bashraheel Award for Arabic Novel, (Arabic: جائزة باشراحيل للرواية العربية)
- 2005: Greece The International Cavafi Award
- 2006: France The Great Novel Award from Toulon Festival
- 2007: Italy The Culture Award from The Foundation of The Mediterranean
- 2007: Italy Grinzane Cavour Award
- 2008: Austria Bruno-Kriesky Award
- 2008: Germany Friedrich Award
- 2010: USA University Of Illinois Achievement Award
- 2011: Canada Blue Metropolis Award for Arabic Literature
- 2012: Italy Tiziano Terzani Literary Award
- 2012: Italy Mediterranean Cultural Award
- 2012: Germany Johann Philipp Palm Award
- Planet Book Groupie Interview
- Guardian Interview
- Rachel Cooke, “The Interview,” The Guardian, 31 May 2009, Retrieved 24 May 2011
- Khan, Riz (13 February 2009). "One on One". Al Jazeera.
- Chicago Novel Book Review
- McCarthy, Rory (27 February 2006). "Dentist by day, top novelist by night". The Guardian (London).
- Bio of Alaa Al Aswani,” World Affairs Journal, accessed 24 May 2011
- "Alaa Al-Aswany`s C.V.". Facebook. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "Egipto ante el fascismo | Internacional". El Pais. 28 October 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "<img class="contributor-pic" src="http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/7/9/1247152433690/alaa.jpg" alt="Picture of Alaa Al Aswany" title="Alaa Al Aswany" />". The Guardian title=<img class="contributor-pic" src="http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/7/9/1247152433690/alaa.jpg" alt="Picture of Alaa Al Aswany" title="Alaa Al Aswany"/> (London). 9 July 2009.
- Alaa Al AswanyAboutTimelineAbout. "Alaa Al Aswany - About". Facebook. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- Karen Kostyal, “Alaa Al Aswany: Voice of Reason,” National Geographic, September 2006, accessed 17 May 2011
- Matthew Kaminski, “The Face of Egypt’s Uprising,” The Wall Street Journal, 13 April 2011, accessed 24 May 2011
- The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. "The 500 Most Influential Muslims" (PDF). The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- “Israeli Translation of Egyptian Novel Infuriates Author,” Agence France-Presse. Hosted by Google, 28 October 2010, Retrieved 24 May 2011
- Baladna Bil Masry Talk Show (March 2011)
- The Blaze 10/27/2013
- Al Wafd News
- "الأسوانى" يفوز بجائزة حرية التعبير الألمانية
- Kostyal, Karen, "Alaa Al Aswany: Voice of Reason" (Interview with the author), National Geographic Interactive, nd.
- Mishra, Pankaj. "Where Alaa Al Aswany Is Writing From", New York Times Magazine, 27 April 2008.
- Salama, Vivian, "A Tale of Some Egyptian: As Yacoubian Building Heads West, the Author Discusses the Story's Message", Daily Star Egypt, 8 December 2005.
- Alaa Al Aswany interviewed by Jonathan Heawood, English PEN at the London Book Fair, 2008, podcast 
- Watch a video interview with Alaa al Aswany talking about Chicago on The Interview Online
- Interview with Alaa al Aswany at the World Book Club 
- Review of "Chicago" in The Ambassadors Online Magazine, July 2009 
- Alaa Al-Aswany Official Facebook page 
- Official sites