الجمعة، يوليو 04، 2008

An Overdose of Reality


The Unbearable
Weight of
Reality






The Jacobean Building

A Novel,
By: Dr. Alaa Al Aswany





Book Review
By: Wael Nawara




Nothing has ever managed to describe the multitude of depressing facets of the miserable reality of our Egyptian society, than the "Jacobean Building" better known in Egypt as, the “Yacobean Building”. In this painful novel, Dr Alaa Al Aswany, originally a dentist, slammed us with an overdose of reality in a masterpiece which likes we have not seen in decades.
The Yacobean Building” alone definitely qualifies Aswany to a "Noble Prize in Literature."
While I was reading, I started to have some chest pains, some dark hand was squeezing my heart mercilessly as I began to realize the unbearable weight of reality in today’s Egypt. Poverty, injustice, opportunism and the unholy alliance between corruption, wealth and political power made me sick.

I started getting depressed as “Buthayna”, a young innocent girl from what should have been a middle class is not only forced to first accept prostitution, as something that inevitably comes on the side of any job she can get but she shortly becomes a full time pro. Amazingly, many characters still live with us today, almost with the same names and titles. Kamal El Fouly, for instance, head of elections committee in the ruling party, bargains with Haj Azzam, a corrupted drug dealer with a legal retail business as a façade, to guarantee his candidacy and eventually a seat in the parliament.



Soon after his election, he becomes the sole agent of a major Japanese auto maker and is forced to enter into partnership with the “top man”. By the time you finish the Novel, and you dare not stop reading although you really need a break and possibly a therapy session every other page, you are ready to apply for an immigrant visa to move and live elsewhere.
You want to be “Anywhere but here”.



The Untold Stories




Despite its chilling brilliance, I think Al Aswany has missed a few characters. Maybe because they are hidden in their own silent determination to change things so that they can have a future in what they rightfully consider their own homeland. They could have been sitting unnoticed next to Taha El Shazly, the unfortunate victim of poverty, nepotism, class discrimination and eventually one of many mass-produced terrorists of the system with little choice on their side.

Taha, with his tragic destiny that ended in blood all over unsuspecting readers’ faces when he was killed during his first assassination assignment, could have overshadowed our undiscovered ordinary guy. This ordinary guy, with the rest of his silent clan, will soon change the face of this nation, I promise you.One of those hidden soldiers of the “Change Corps” could be yet hiding in the very womb of Buthayna, as the fruit of a complicated love affair that led to an odd marriage between this young girl abused by everyone and “Zaki Desouki”, a sixty something remnant of a long-gone glorious past and nobility.

Zaki, once the son of a Wafdist minister, now a full time womanizer who smokes cheap stinky cigars. Ironically, this marriage of incompatibility may not be your typical happy ending, but this is as close to “happy” as you can get with this novel.


In your next novel, Dr Aswany, please dig us out to some light at the end of the tunnel. You have shaken us to our foundations. Now, please, inspire us.
Dr Aswany, you have skillfully diagnosed our illnesses, puss-filled ulcers and fatal wounds. Now, we beg you to give us the kiss of life. Breath an uplifting wind into the lungs of this suffocating nation.






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