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May 27, 2008


Egyptian writer Alaa al Aswany was born in 1957 and studied dentistry in Egypt and Chicago. In addition to fiction, he writes on literature, politics, and social issues. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic take on modern Egyptian society, was a significant best seller in and outside of the Arabic world. Chicago, a novel set in the city of that name was published in January 2007. The English translation is due out in bookstores this Fall.

We met at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in Montreal recently, and talk here about the contamination of literature by politics, compartmentalizing the two, achieving artistic value, Martin Amis and Islamism, the fallacy of Mark Steyn’s fear mongering, the novel as life on paper but more profound, significant, beautiful than the ‘real’ thing, the writer’s need to listen to the sound of the heart, the difference between writing and fabricating, and why his novels have enjoyed such world-wide success.