Shelves: for-harper-collins Its a bit appalling that I havent written about Chicago by now, because I actually finished it a while ago. My reluctance to write has nothing to do with my impression of the book, because I must say, I really liked it - more than I expected to. Not in a I cant part with this book sort of way, but I really did enjoy it. I read some reviews of the book after finishing it and was disappointed to see that it averaged about 3 stars. Come on, people. One reader suggested he or she expected it to be similar to an Orhan Pahmuk novel in some way.

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Share via Email Alaa Al Aswany, the Egyptian novelist, became famous overnight in the Arab world with the publication of his first novel, The Yacoubian Building, in That compulsively readable book, which became a massive bestseller in Arabic, focused on a once grand but now decaying building in central Cairo; it was set during the Gulf war and offered a microcosm of Egyptian society. Al Aswany wrote in a fearless manner, especially when it came to sexual and political matters.

In the mix of characters living in the building one found, for instance, an extravagant playboy, a gay intellectual, and a devout Islamic fundamentalist. The author drew each portrait with a bravado that was something new under the Middle Eastern sun. Chicago, his eagerly awaited second novel, is not as interesting or fully realised as the first, but has undeniable charms of its own. As his new wife soon discovers, he has miserly and selfish tendencies.

Danana stands in contrast to an appealing mathematician, Nagi Abd al-Samad, who reveals himself wonderfully in his journal, as when he writes: "The soldier fights his enemies ferociously, wishing to annihilate them all.

Her story is told with special poignancy. There is also Dr Muhammad Salah, who has adapted fairly well to life in the United States, although he pines for a lost love in Egypt; indeed, he yearns for Egypt itself. The cast of characters is a large one, and Chicago weaves together their various stories - too many of them, perhaps.

An impending visit by the president of Egypt produces all sorts of plot possibilities, setting off a good deal of subterfuge. To these Egyptians abroad the novelist adds a small group of Americans, mostly professors in the department of histology. But the American characters are scarcely believable, being thinly drawn caricatures who speak in a wooden manner, representing competing points of view and nothing more.

This is a shrewdly conceived novel: by isolating his Egyptians in an alien culture, Al Aswany finds the pressure points in their personalities, as each undergoes cultural traumas of one kind or another. There are profound, often chilling, moments of self-realisation along the way, as when the unhappy Dr Salah descends one morning into the basement of his house and uncovers an old suitcase that contains the clothes he had brought to America from Egypt 30 years before: "He thought at the time they were elegant but discovered immediately that they were not suitable for America; wearing them he looked as if he had come from another planet or as if he were a character that had stepped out of a period play.

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, whose influence is felt on every page. Yet Al Aswany has his own magic. His remarkable gift for narrative momentum sustains Chicago. It may not reach the heights of The Yacoubian Building, but it reveals a gifted novelist in mid-flight.



Vudolkis Her story is told with special poignancy. That compulsively readable book, which became a massive bestseller in Arabic, focused on a once grand but now decaying building in central Cairo; it was set during the Gulf war and offered a microcosm of Egyptian society. Celebrating 40 years of Assilah Festival. Fady Cyril rated it liked it Oct 04, Almost from the start both male and female characters are shown masturbating, watching pornography, or indulging in carnal dreams. Menna marked it as to-read Jul 26, Then there are the students: There are also several break-ups here, and sex — often of the forced, or at least coerced variety — plays a role in some of them as well. See 1 question about chicago…. The novel is diverse in style with very rich and detailed description.


Chicago: A Novel


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