I have returned! To little or no fanfare, as you guys probably had no idea that cosmic forces were waging the ultimate battle for the universe in my laptop, well I can only conclude that they were. Either that or a virus got in.
I didn’t waste my time worrying about the fate of everyone and everything existing in the universe and of the unborn aliens and humans who would never exist, I read instead.
The Yacoubian building is a real building – although has a different, less impressive appearance to its elaborate fictional counterpart – and is the home at some point or another to most of the characters in the book.
The plot has us following a number of residents of varying class and beliefs going about their daily lives and shows the struggles of a community that is probably misunderstood by a large proportion of the Western society.
Set at the time of the first Gulf War, with tensions rising between religious and political leaders about the legality of the war. with the effects of Colonialism still resonating through all walks of society this is a real collision of East meets West book.
The Yacoubian Building itself represents Egyptian society in microcosm, A kaleidoscopic mish-mash of beliefs, sometimes conflicting but always contrasting making for a diverse group of people from all walks of life. Connected by the building, the building itself stands like a grand impassive edifice always brooding over and dwarfing all the lives of the residents with its cold impassive stone.
Although Al Aswany writes in a simple style, (it isn’t pretentious or dramatic, except when it needs to be) His non judgemental approach leaves the reader to make up his or her own mind about the subject matter and never preaches or claims one side is right or wrong. As it is all characters should be viewed in the context of a ‘everyman’ representative of their class.
The flaws of religious fundamentalist ideologies are exposed, this not an attack on islamic fundamentalism but is again representative of the idiocy of fundamentalists from ALL religions. Shown also is the issue of gay people trying to reconcile their sexuality with their religion, as well as many other facets of this book, that time prevents me from listing them, suffice to say that life ‘ain’t all happiness’.
This ultimately tragic story is made more fascinating in the light of Hosni Mubarak’s relatively recent downfall, as politics and religion collide with traditional and foreign cultures. This an interesting if basic view of another country, some of it is genuinely disturbing, but ultimately satisfying. Except for the end which isn’t tied up as neatly as I would have liked, still if leaves room to speculate on certain characters future.