February’s Kutub selection was The Yacoubian Building (Imārat Yaʿqūbīān) by the Egyptian writer Ala Aswani.
A rich depiction of the daily lives of the many inhabitants of the Yacoubian Building in Cairo, this novel delves into love, money, politics, homosexuality and religious fundamentalism. The building, bought by Armenian businessman Hagop Yacoubian in 1934, was once considered one of the most luxurious and prestigious buildings in the region. Its characters (from the door man and his son to those living on the building’s roof) reveal in human detail all the various facets of Egyptian society. A great read, hands down.
The Yacoubian Building was published in 2002 and adapted into a film in 2006, directed by Marwan Hamed to a screenplay written by Wahid Hamed, one of Egypt’s most famous screenwriters and Marwan’s father. The filmmakers were inspired by, as they describe it, the “great humanity in which the book deals wtih the characters, and the courage, simplicity and sensitivity in dealing with such taboos.”