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From one of Egypt’s most acclaimed novelists, here is a vivid chronicle of Egyptian society, with penetrating analysis of all the most urgent issues—economic stagnation, police brutality, poverty, the harassment of women and of the Christian minority, to name a few—that led to the stunning overthrow of the Mubarak government. Al-Aswany addresses himself to all the questions being asked within Egypt and beyond: who will be the next president, and how will he be chosen in a land where heretofore only simpletons, opportunists and stooges involved themselves with elections? What role will the Muslim Brotherhood play? How can democratic reforms be effected among a people used to such contradictions as the religiously observant policeman who commits torture? In a candid and controversial assessment of both the potential and limitations that will determine his country’s future, Al-Aswany reveals why the revolt that surprised the world was destined to happen.
“For all the robust humanism of Al Aswany’s political analysis, many readers will harvest from this book a sheaf of memorable, moving stories . . . with all the collar-grabbing immediacy we expect from his fiction.” —The Independent (UK)
“These columns enter Al Aswany into a long Egyptian tradition of novelists as public intellectuals. Throughout the twentieth century, Egyptian literary figures like Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim, and Yusef Idriss wrote openly on political subjects in national newspapers. . . . The incisive columns collected in On the State of Egypt are . . . helpful as a picture of why [the uprising] failed and what kinds of broad social therapy are needed to produce a real revolution in Egypt.” —Montreal Review
“On the State of Egypt provides a critique of despotism both distinctly Egyptian and universal.” —The Huffington Post
“On The State of Egypt is surely as close as a novelist can get to formulating a rapid response to the shifting sands of history. ‘Why did Egypt unexpectedly revolt? What were the problems and contradictions in Egyptian society that made revolution inevitable? This book may contain many of the answers,’ he writes. The essays, mostly written between 2009 and December 2010, build a tense picture of the hopes and fears of Egyptians struggling to wrest power from President Hosni Mubarak. Aswany’s pieces are logical, his arguments often numbered ‘firstly’, ‘secondly’ and so on, and their immediacy is palpable, with references to events ‘last week’ or ‘days ago’. Tellingly, each piece ends with Aswany’s rallying cry: ‘Democracy is the solution.’ These are not abstract writing exercises; they are integral to the intellectual life of a nation in flux.” —Financial Times
“Alaa Al Aswany is among the best writers in the Middle East today, a suitable heir to the mantle worn by Naguib Mahfouz, his great predecessor.” —Jay Parini, The Guardian (UK)