translation causes Egyptian furor
World famous Cairene author Alaa Al Aswany's book
'The Yacoubian Building' has been translated into Hebrew; the author alleges
that it was without his permission, but Egyptian media is condemning him
The writer and intellectual Alaa Al Aswany has been under
media attack in his native Egypt because of the publication of a Hebrew
translation of a novel of his in Israel last week. The writer, who opposes any
kind of normalization, has long refused to have his work translated into
Hebrew, and he condemned the translation as unauthorized.
In 2002, Al Aswany penned the novel "The Yacoubian
Building", in which he recounts the many ills of Egyptian society bravely
and openly, including references to corruption and sexual harassment. The novel
is one of the most successful in the Arab world, and it has since been adapted
into a film and a television series.
For years, Al Aswany refused to permit his novel's
translation into Hebrew, despite its publication in dozens of other languages.
In October of 2010, for example, the then-Israel/Palestine Center for Research
and Information, a Jerusalem nonprofit think tank, announced that they had
translated the book without the author's permission in an attempt to widen
cultural understanding between the peoples.
Aswany dubbed the translation intellectual "theft." He further
threatened to sue the Israeli translators because of his opposition to
cultural relations with Israel.
week, the book was published by the Anglophone publishing house Toby with
assistance from the Israeli publishing company Kinneret Zmora Dvir. Al Aswany,
whose aggressively anti-Israel stance is well known, published a laconic denial
on his Twitter account, which found its way into the Egyptian media.
The tweet claims that the novelist has "not at any time
signed an agreement with an Israeli publisher to publish his works."
Despite this denial, Egyptian parliamentarian and media personality Mustafa
Bakri used his platform on Thursday to strongly attack Al Aswany for the
Hebrew translation of "The Yacoubian Building"
Israelis are praising Alaa Al Aswany and the Hebrew translation of his
book," said Bakri. "If you have a drop of patriotism, then you would
say that there is no honor in your having been translated. But you haven't said
that, and you are abandoning the Egyptian people, the Egyptian army and the
Egyptian police. You and your ilk. But we have 90 million patriotic Egyptians,
all of whom support defending and fighting for the homeland."
the same member of parliament that led the malicious attackagainst former MP Tawfiq
Okasha, who met with the Israeli ambassador in Cairo and was subsequently
ousted from the parliament.
television presenter who attacked the author in a live broadcast was Tamer
Amin: "He damaged Egypt and put his hand in Israel's." Amin accused
Al Aswany of lying and having signed a contract with an Israeli company in the
United States to have his book translated to Hebrew. "May Allah curse
Israel. It chose this novel to hurt Egypt with the characters that appear in
the book, which deals with homosexuality, prostitution, drugs, and
media personalities and an opinion piece in the newspaper Al Youm El Sabea
condemned Al Aswany, ignoring his denial.
Al Aswany is considered one of the most controversial
figures in Egypt in recent years, both because of his works and because of his
uncompromising stands against the police's conduct following the revolution on
January 25, 2011, which led to the end of the former president's, Hosni
Mubarak, 29-year reign. Al Aswany supported that revolution and lent his voice
to it, and "The Yacoubian Building" symbolized for many the
circumstances that led to its occurrence.