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Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformedby Ahdaf Soueif
Synopses & Reviews
From the best-selling author of The Map of Love, here is a bracing firsthand account of the Egyptian revolution—told with the narrative instincts of a novelist, the gritty insights of an activist, and the long perspective of a native Cairene.
Since January 25, 2011, when thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to demand the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, Ahdaf Soueif—author, journalist, and lifelong progressive—has been among the revolutionaries who have shaken Egypt to its core. In this deeply personal work, Soueif summons her storytelling talents to trace the trajectory of her nation’s ongoing transformation. She writes of the passion, confrontation, and sacrifice that she witnessed in the historic first eighteen days of uprising—the bravery of the youth who led the revolts and the jubilation in the streets at Mubarak’s departure. Later, the cityscape was ablaze with political graffiti and street screenings, and with the journalistic and organizational efforts of activists—including Soueif and her family.
In the weeks and months after those crucial eighteen days, we watch as Egyptians fight to preserve and advance their revolution—even as the interim military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, throws up obstacles at each step. She shows us the council delaying abdication of power, undermining efforts toward democracy, claiming ownership of the revolution while ignoring its martyrs. We see elections held and an Islamist voted into power. At each scene, Soueif gives us her view from the ground—brave, intelligent, startlingly immediate. Against this stormy backdrop, she interweaves memories of her own Cairo—the balcony of her aunt’s flat, where, as a child, she would watch the open-air cinema; her first job, as an actor on a children’s sitcom; her mother’s family land outside the city, filled with fruit trees and palm groves, in sight of the pyramids. In so doing, she affirms the beauty and resilience of this ancient and remarkable city. The book ends with a postscript that considers Egypt’s more recent turns: the shifts in government, the ongoing confrontations between citizen and state, and a nation’s difficult but deeply inspiring path toward its great, human aims—bread, freedom, and social justice. In these pages, Soueif creates an illuminating snapshot of an event watched by the world—the outcome of which continues to be felt across the globe.
For years before the Egyptian revolution in January 2011 Alaa Al Aswany, author of the bestselling novel The Yacoubian Building, had been a critic of the Mubarak regime. When the revolution broke out he was among those in Tahrir Square calling for democratic reform and demanding that Hosni Mubarak stand down. Since then he has continued, through his popular weekly column for the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, to propound the ideals of the January 2011 revolution, embodied by the young protestors that risked everything to occupy Tahrir by his side. In his many columns over the ensuing three years collected and translated here for the first time Al Aswany confronted the crucial issues of the day head-on as an increasingly stratified and divided country sought to agree a constitution and elect a democratic government. His journalism gave him an opportunity to call out the instances of corruption, brutality, police negligence, and judicial and religious interference that were commonplace and plagued the everyday lives of the Egyptian people. These 150 columns provide a comprehensive chronicle of the post-revolutionary years of turmoil and are a portrait of a country and people in flux. Divided into three parts the chaotic aftermath of the revolution; Mohamed Morsi's election, tenure as President and overthrow; and the election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi each column is introduced with a brief description providing the background of the events described in the article, footnotes and a glossary: the information necessary to allow non-Egyptian readers to place the columns in context. The result is a definitive reader of Egypt's years of upheaval by one of the Middle East's foremost political voices.
As the Egyptian revolution unfolded throughout 2011 and the ensuing years, no one was better positioned to comment on it—and try to push it in productive directions—than best-selling novelist and political commentator Alaa Al-Aswany. For years a leading critic of the Mubarak regime, Al-Aswany used his weekly newspaper column for Al-Masry Al-Youm to propound the revolutions ideals and to confront the increasingly troubled politics of its aftermath.
This book presents, for the first time in English, all of Al-Aswanys columns from the period, a comprehensive account of the turmoil of the post-revolutionary years, and a portrait of a country and a people in flux. Each column is presented along with a context-setting introduction, as well as notes and a glossary, all designed to give non-Egyptian readers the background they need to understand the events and figures that Al-Aswany chronicles. The result is a definitive portrait of Egypt today—how it got here, and where it might be headed.
From the best-selling author of The Map of Love: a many-faceted, galvanizing firsthand account of the Egyptian revolution that is as well a thoughtful, passionate appraisal of what the future holds for Cairo, for Egypt, and for the Egyptian people.
When thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square after the eruption of the revolution on January 25, 2011, Ahdaf Soueif was among them. Now, in this deeply felt, vivid narrative, she writes of the passion, confusion, and violence that filled Cairo for eighteen days before the triumphant overturning of the corrupt Mubarak regime. And contrasted against the revolution, Soueif recalls peaceful mornings spent in Cairo with her mother, and the many memories she has of growing up in Egypt, a country whose importance is at the heart of her family's life. With a novelist's eye for detail and story, the perspective of a Cairo native, and the insight of someone who was on the ground during the first days of the revolution, Soueif gives us a personal, uniquely illuminating picture of an event watched by the world. This updated edition includes new material that considers Egypt's most recent turns, from the elections to the dissolution of Parliament to the first hundred days of Muhammad Morsi's presidency over a nation reborn.
About the Author
Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo. She is the author of the best-selling novel The Map of Love, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1999, as well as Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground and the novel In the Eye of the Sun. She also has translated from the Arabic the award-winning memoir I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti.
Table of Contents
A Note on Spelling Arabic Sounds in Latin Characters · ix
Map · x
Preface · xiii
25 January–11 February 2011 · 1
Eight Months Later, October 2011 · 49
The Eighteen Days Resumed
1 February–12 February 2011 · 101
Eighteen Days Were Never Enough
October 2012 · 153
31 July 2013 · 217
A Brief and Necessary History · 227
Acknowledgments · 235
Notes · 237
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