Chicago

ChicagoYesterday Alaa Al Aswany's new novel, "Chicago," came out. There was an impressive crowd at the Dar El Shurouq bookstore at the First Mall in the Four Seasons Hotel in Giza. Ibrahim Eissa (editor of El Dustour, where the novel has been serialized in the last months--the last chapter comes out this Wednesday) and Galal Amin (the AUC professor and author of "Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?" series, who wrote the blurb on the back of the book) were there, as well as a lot of leftist-leaning writers and intellectuals. There was quite a press to get one's book signed--TV crews kept interviewing Al Aswany during the signing (causing indignant protests from the queue) and I'm sorry to report that many semi-eminent personages cut shamelesslly to the front of the line.

Al Aswany lived in Chicago when he was studying dentistry and he's apparently drawn on this experience for his second novel, which (I believe, I haven't read it yet) focuse on an Arab-American family. It's also a critique of American society (apparently, some have told the author it's downright anti-American). One wonders if such a book will be as well received as Al Aswany's prodigiously successful The Yacoubian Building, which has now been translated into about 15 languages, was a best-selling book in France recently, and is night-stand reading for Middle East diplomats such as Karen Hughes.
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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.