Alaa Al Aswany
Alaa Al Aswany
Al Aswany in 2011
|Born||26 May 1957|
|Occupation||Writer, novelist and dentist|
|Language||Egyptian Arabic, Classical Arabic|
|Alma mater||Cairo University|
University of Illinois at Chicago
|Notable works||The Yacoubian Building|
|Notable awards||Bashraheel Award for Arabic Novel|
The International Cavafi Award
Tiziano Terzani Literary Award
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
|Spouse||Eman Taymoor (1993-present)|
Early life and career
Al-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 (in Lower Nubia) 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 19 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: Armenian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Chinese Simplified, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. 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, 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". 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 and his Automobile Club of Egypt was published in English in 2016.
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 Al-Aswany refused for the book to be translated into Hebrew and published in Israel, a volunteer had translated it and 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.
In January 2015, the Gingko Library published Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution, a collection of newspaper columns written by Al-Aswany for Al-Masry Al-Youm between 2011 and 2014.
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 people to interview 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: Awrāq ʾIṣṣām ʾAbd il-ʾĀṭī (Arabic: أوراق عصام عبد العاطى, The Papers of Essam Abdel Aaty)
- 2002: ʿImārat Yaʾqūbiyān (Arabic: عمارة يعقوبيان, The Yacoubian Building)
- 2007: Chicago (Arabic: شيكاجو)
- 2013: Nādī il-sayyārāt (Arabic: نادي السيارات, The Automobile Club of Egypt)
- 2018: Jumhuriat ka'an (Arabic: جمهورية كأن, The so-called Republic)
- 1990: Alladhī iqtarab wa raʾa (Arabic: الذى اقترب و رأى, "Who Approached And Saw")
- 1998: Jamʾiyat muntaẓirī il-zaʿīm (Arabic: جمعية منتظرى الزعيم, "Waiting for a Leader")
- 2004: Nīrān sadīqa (Arabic: نيران صديقة, "Friendly Fire")
- 2010: Li mā dhā lā yathūr il-Miṣriyūn (Arabic: لماذا لا يثور المصريون؟, "Why Don't Egyptians Revolt?")
- 2011: Hal nastaḥiqq il-dimuqrāṭiyya? (Arabic: هل نستحق الديمقراطية؟, "Do We Deserve Democracy?")
- 2011: Miṣr ʿalā dikkat il-iḥṭiyāṭy (Arabic: مصر على دكة الإحتياطى, "Egypt on The Reserve Bench")
- 2012: Hal akhṭaʾat il-thawra il-Miṣriyya? (Arabic: هل أخطأت الثورة المصرية؟, "Did the Egyptian Revolution Go Wrong?")
- 2014: Kayf naṣnaʾ il-diktātūr? (Arabic: كيف نصنع الديكتاتور؟, "How do we make the Dictator?")
- Since November 2013, he has been writing a monthly opinion column for the International Herald Tribune/New York Times.
- Alaa Al Aswany (15 February 2015). Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-1-909942-71-4.
- Alaa Al Aswany (12 April 2011). On the State of Egypt: What Made the Revolution Inevitable. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-94699-7.
- Alaa Al Aswany (2009). Friendly Fire. Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-730600-8.
- Alaa Al Aswany (6 October 2009). Chicago. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-198188-3.
- 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
- 2016: France Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
- Planet Book Groupie Interview Archived 12 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Maya Jaggi, "Cairo calling", The Guardian, 23 August 2008.
- Rachel Cooke, "The Interview", The Observer, 31 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- Khan, Riz (13 February 2009). "One on One". Al Jazeera.
- Chicago Novel Book Review Archived 14 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- McCarthy, Rory (27 February 2006). "Dentist by day, top novelist by night". The Guardian. London.
- Bio of Alaa Al Aswani" Archived 14 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 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.
- "Alaa Al Aswany". The Guardian. London. 9 July 2009.
- t. "Alaa Al Aswany". 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 3 January 2011.
- "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.
- "BBC Radio 4 – Start the Week, Arabian Nights". BBC. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- "Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution". Middle East Monitor – The Latest from the Middle East. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- "Autopsy of a Revolution". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- on YouTube
- The Blaze, 27 October 2013]
- الوفد. "الأسوانى يفوز بجائزة "البحر المتوسط" للثقافة". الوفد. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
- ""الأسوانى" يفوز بجائزة حرية التعبير الألمانية - اليوم السابع". اليوم السابع (in Arabic). 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
- Steavenson, Wendell (16 January 2012). "Letter from Cairo: Writing the Revolution". The New Yorker. 87 (44): 38–45. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
- 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", Ambassadors Online Magazine, July 2009