Alaa Al Aswany
Al Aswany in 2011
Al Aswany in 2011
Born (1957-05-26) 26 May 1957 (age 66)
Cairo, Egypt
OccupationWriter, novelist, and dentist
LanguageEgyptian Arabic, Classical Arabic, French, Spanish, English
Alma materCairo University
University of Illinois at Chicago
Notable worksThe Isam Abd el-Ati Papers (1990)
The Yacoubian Building
Chicago (2007)
Friendly Fire (2004, 2008)
The Automobile Club of Egypt (2013)
The Republic of False Truths (2021)
Notable awardsBashraheel Award for Arabic Novel (2005)
The International Cavafi Award (2005)
Bruno-Kriesky Award (2008)
Tiziano Terzani Literary Award
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters, France, 2016)
Grand Prix of the Novel, Toulon France Festival (2006)
Grinzani Cavour Award, Turin, Italy (2007)
Mediterranean Culture Award, Naples, Italy (2007)
Friedrich Rukert Literary Award (2008)
Bruno Kreisky literary Award, Austria (2008)
Achievement Award from the University of Illinois (2010)
Majidi bin Zahir Arab Literature Award, Montreal, Canada (2011)
Tiziano Terzani Award, Odeon, Italy (2011)
Johann Philipp Palm Award, Germany (2012)
SpouseEman Taymoor (1993–present)[1]

Alaa Al Aswany (Arabic: علاء الأسواني, IPA: [ʕæˈlæːʔ elɑsˈwɑːni]; born 26 May 1957) is an Egyptian writer, novelist, and a founding member of the political movement Kefaya.

Early life and career

Dr. Alaa Al-Aswany during his monthly seminar in the "Leadership and Management Development Center" on 25 April 2013.

Al Aswany was born on 26 May 1957 in Cairo. His mother, Zainab, came from an aristocratic family; her uncle was a Pasha and Minister of Education before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.[4] His father, Abbas Al Aswany, was from Aswan[3] (in Lower Nubia) and was a lawyer and writer who "is remembered as being a captivating and charismatic speaker with a broad following and loyalty within a cross-section of the Egyptian revolutionary intelligentsia". Abbas Al Aswany wrote a regular back-page essay in the Egyptian weekly magazine Rose al-Yūsuf entitled Aswaaniyat.[5] In 1972, he was "the recipient of the state award for literature".[3] He died when Alaa was 19 years old.[4]

Al Aswany attended Le Lycée Français in Cairo and received a bachelor's degree in dental and oral medicine at Cairo University in 1980. He went on to pursue a master's degree in dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1985.[6] He speaks Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.[7] He studied Spanish literature in Madrid.

Al Aswany married his first wife in his early twenties. She was a dentist and they had their son, Seif. They later divorced. When he was 37, he married Eman Taymoor and they had two daughters, May and Nada.

He wrote a weekly literary critique entitled "Parenthetically" in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Sha'ab, and then became responsible for the culture page in the same newspaper. He wrote a monthly political article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arabi Al-Nasseri and a weekly article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Dustour. He wrote a weekly article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk. Following the revolution, he wrote a weekly article in Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesdays. His articles have been published in leading international newspapers such as The New York Times,[8] Le Monde,[8] El Pais,[9] The Guardian,[10] The Independent,[8] and others.[8]

His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, has been widely read in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. His literary works have been translated into 37 languages.[11] They include Armenian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Castilian, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. In 2006, The Yacoubian Building was adapted into "the biggest budget movie ever produced in Egypt".[12] The movie was screened at international film festivals and was a huge hit in Egypt. However, Al Aswany was banned from attending the premiere.[3] The Yacoubian Building is one of a few movies that addresses social taboos and widespread governmental corruption, such as the rigging of elections. In 2007, The Yacoubian Building was made into a television series of the same name. In fact, many intellectuals believe that this work played a crucial role in triggering revolutionary sentiments among the Egyptian people. Alaa Al Aswany claims that during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, many protesters approached him and said "We are here because of what you wrote".[13]

Chicago, a novel set in the city in which the author was educated, was published in January 2007 and his Automobile Club of Egypt was published in English in 2016.

Al Aswany's name has also been included in the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World,[14] issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan. He was number one in The Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers list 2011.[15]

Al Aswany participated in the Blue Metropolis literary festival in Montreal, June 2008 and April 2010, and was featured in interviews with the CBC programme Writers and Company.

In January 2015, the Gingko Library published Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution, a collection of newspaper columns written by Al Aswany for Al-Masry Al-Youm between 2011 and 2014.[16][17]

In 2018, Al Aswany published a novel called Jumhuriyat ka'an (translated into English as The Republic of False Truths[18]), which takes place in the backdrop of the 2011 Revolution.[19]

Role in the revolution

Al Aswany was in Tahrir Square each of the 18 days before Mubarak fell from power.[13] In fact, he was one of the few prominent people to interview the Mubarak-appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik on an Egyptian channel.[20] Shafik lost his temper under persistent grilling by the novelist and it was the first time for Egyptians to witness a ruler dressed down so severely by a civilian in public. Consequently, it is said that Shafik was fired by the SCAF.[13]

Bibliography (in Arabic)


Short stories


English translations



  1. ^ Planet Book Groupie Interview Archived 12 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Maya Jaggi, "Cairo calling", The Guardian, 23 August 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Rachel Cooke, "The Interview", The Observer, 31 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  4. ^ a b Khan, Riz (13 February 2009). "One on One". Al Jazeera.
  5. ^ Chicago Novel Book Review Archived 14 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ McCarthy, Rory (27 February 2006). "Dentist by day, top novelist by night". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ Bio of Alaa Al Aswani"[usurped], World Affairs Journal, accessed 24 May 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d "Alaa Al-Aswany's C.V." Retrieved 12 March 2013 – via Facebook.
  9. ^ "Egipto ante el fascismo | Internacional". El Pais. 28 October 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Alaa Al Aswany". The Guardian. London. 9 July 2009.
  11. ^ t. "Alaa Al Aswany". Retrieved 12 March 2013 – via Facebook.
  12. ^ Karen Kostyal, "Alaa Al Aswany: Voice of Reason", National Geographic, September 2006, accessed 17 May 2011.
  13. ^ a b c Matthew Kaminski, "The Face of Egypt’s Uprising", The Wall Street Journal, 13 April 2011, accessed 24 May 2011.
  14. ^ The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. "The 500 Most Influential Muslims" (PDF). The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  15. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 28 November 2011. Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  16. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Start the Week, Arabian Nights". BBC. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution". Middle East Monitor – The Latest from the Middle East. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  18. ^ "The Republic of False Truths". Penguin Random House.
  19. ^ Beskova, Katarina (2020). "A Bleak Portrait of the Revolution: Alaa al-Aswany's Jumhuriya ka'an". Asian and African Studies. 29 (2): 166–191. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  20. ^ Baladna Bil Masry Talk Show (March 2011) on YouTube
  21. ^ الوفد. "الأسوانى يفوز بجائزة "البحر المتوسط" للثقافة". الوفد. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  22. ^ ""الأسوانى" يفوز بجائزة حرية التعبير الألمانية – اليوم السابع". اليوم السابع (in Arabic). 28 November 2012. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2018.

Further reading