Saturday, February 26, 2005

The famous Yacoubian building

Everyone I know has read or is reading Alaa ElAswany's "Umaret Yacoubian". Its a good novel, but its very interesting why everyone would have that urge to read it, even people who haven't been reading novels in a long time. The publicity of making the novel into a movie has certainly helped, and made alot of people curious about that novel that combined Adel Imam, Nour AlSherif and a group of other hard to get actors in one movie.

I feel that people are really getting obsessed with this novel. I'm not sure why, but maybe because it is so realistic reflecting the current state of the Egyptian society, with its different societal classes integrated and interacting at different levels. It is so realistic that some of the characters resemble real Egyptian figures. Kamal ElFooly, Hatem the homosexual French magazine editor, Hagg Azzam the womanizer who wants to buy his way to the parliament. One-to-one mapping of known Egyptian figures.

People really love talking and reading about taboo subjects, and this novel is full of it. Lots of sex, homosexuality, corrupt politics and sheikhs, police brutality and all with a strong sense of reality and non-fictitious characters. Beats sitting at the cafe and chatting about all that stuff, and making up rumours about people. And now, there's even a common background and vocabulary established too, like "borghol" and "codian".

Interesting too is how its been endorsed even though it views the society through a very negative lense. I was really surprised that they are making a movie out of this novel. Its one thing to let an author criticize and write elaborately about all the tabooed subjects in a book, which is usually read by a relative few (although not in this case), and another thing to make a movie out of it that has a much higher rate of penetration and reaches a much wider audience.

I would really like to see how such a movie would turn out, and how the censor would handle it, and how much of the original novel would remain. Ofcourse, Adel Imam has alot of weight and influence, and can have much of the movie go his way subduing the censor. But already, Wahid Hamid is excluding the character of Taha, the porter son. I was wondering for a while how such a character would be played out in the movie. A character which embodies a very harsh criticism of social injustice, but more importantly (to the authorities), of the police. Whether when he was trying to get admitted to the Police Academy, or when he was detained and subjected to torture and inhumane treatment, which may lead some to be empathetic to some of the Islamist movements.

How will they play the gay characters, and who will play those roles is beyond me. Can they really play out the Parliament corruption on film? However, with the current sexual state of the entertainment industry, I think they will play the sex parts of the novel very accurately.

Overall, I really doubt that the movie will be anything like the novel. It will be a box office hit, that's for sure. All those actors in one movie, and having the same title as the novel, I think will do wonders to the tickets sales.

On another note. I was reading an earlier novel of ElAswany, "Neeran Sadeeka", and I really connected with the main character's views about Egypt and Egyptians. To my dismay, the guy ended up in the mental hospital! So maybe its justifiable after all when my friends call me crazy.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

:) make sure to pick a good mental hospital though!

Mohammed said...

neeran sadeeka ya mohammed....?
i love this short story...
but as i said in an old post, u can't have this deep hate for everything and stay sane...
http://digressing.blogspot.com/2004/11/2.html

Mohamed said...

You're probably right Mohammed. But it wasn't hatred, was it? Anger, dissapointment, disassociation, ridicule maybe. I guess too much of that could turn into hatred, and then lead to insanity.

DeeLiciouS said...

I've heard so much about this book. I so wanna go get it. Would probably take me ages to read it though.. I've never really read any arabic books. Oh well I guess I need the improvement anyways :)

Mohamed said...

This would probably be a good start for reading Arabic books DeeLiciouS. There is an English translation however (which I point to in my post), and its sold everywhere. Shouldn't there be an age restriction for this novel though ;-)

Wonderer said...

You are totally right concerning "Umaret Yacoubian". I am one of the people you mentioned in your blog. The last time I've read a book was almost 3 years ago. However, during this month, I've read two novels. The first one was "umaret Yacoubian" and the second one was "Alchemist" or "Saher El Sahara'a", if you'd like to call it. During reading the two books I was wondering to myself "why everybody is reading and talking about these two books". They are good books, but not to the extend to make most of the people even who haven't been reading novels in a long time, read them. I mean no offence, but what I am trying to say is that, most of the time publicity has a great influence on the people. Which makes me wonder why don't we direct this weapon, i.e., publicity, towards something useful instead of keeping the people busy with Nancy Agram's dress or Haifaa's "new look".

On the other hand, regarding the movie, "Umaret Yacoubian", I assure you that the movie will have nothing to do with the novel. The novel is touching very sensitive issues in our life and I guess that the people working on the movie will never have the guts to put these issues into a movie.

forsoothsayer said...

i heard from a semi inside source that they are including the young terrorist. but exluding the anal rape scene. reading that book was pretty much the highlight of my summer... i was determined to prove at least to myself that i CAN read arabic :)

akhalil4 said...

this has probably already been said but just to justify it....the novel has received so much attention and many people are reading it because its true. i haven't read the book yet so i cant really say too much, but just reading about what it states, everything so far to me is very truthful. I lived most of my life outside of egypt and chose to attend AUC for college and therefore i was here during the elections, everything to do with the elections was bullshit which i believe is included in the novel. its actually really good that people are approving this novel, because before in egypt, everything bad was known except people didn't talk about it and weren't brave enough, and now homosexuality is coming out also. i do think that the movie will be different than the novel because that is how it works but i think the actors in that movie, adel imam especially, are very brave actors that will not hold anything back and will be able to portray all these issues very truthfully. It's really funny to watch how such a beautiful country as egypt is going through so much and how that by each single day its becoming a completely different place.

farouha said...

i havent read or seen the story but the book was translated into english. if u live in the states, go check barnes & noble, they'll order u a copy if u'd like. getting mine in a week n cant wait to read it.

jemerocay said...

I saw the movie its frigging Awesome

sandy said...

The book sounds very interesting, i'd like to buy an English translation if i can find one!

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