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Searching for a Glimmer of Hope in the Ashes of Egypt’s Arab Spring

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It’s been a tough few years for Alaa Al Aswany, the Egyptian author who spent 18 days in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring of 2011, a period he has called “the most beautiful days of my life.”

In 2014, Al Aswany, a globally famous critic of Egypt’s corrupt society—his 2002 novel The Yacoubian Building, a dissection of Cairo culture, has sold over 1 million copies worldwide—was banned from publishing his weekly column in an Egyptian daily. The next year he was prevented from putting on a public seminar and not allowed to publish at all. Then two years ago he was sued by Egyptian military prosecutors for insulting the president, armed forces, and judiciary in his latest novel, The Republic-As If, which was released the year previously but banned in his home country. Finally, after being repeatedly harassed while trying to travel outside the country, Al Aswany, who speaks fluent English—he has a master’s degree in dentistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago—decided to accept the invitations of American schools that wanted him to guest-lecture, and moved to the U.S. He currently resides in Brooklyn.

“Every time I traveled,” Al Aswany told The Daily Beast, “I was detained for at least two hours, and asked very provocative questions. So, at this point, I began to accept invitations from American universities like Bard and Princeton to teach creative writing.”

It’s easy to see why Egyptian authorities weren’t happy with The Republic-As If,” which has recently been published in the U.S. and retitled The Republic of........

© The Daily Beast

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