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Enlightening Profile on a Dentist Turned Writer and Government Critic

Yesterday’s Guardian UK featured a profile on Alaa al Aswany, a bestselling Arab novelist who is known in his home country of Egypt for speaking out against the repressive regime under President Mubarak. Aswany, who never fully left his day job of practicing dentistry, is currently promoting his new book, Friendly Fire, along with a recently revived title, The Isam Abd el-Ati Papers, which was banned from Egypt a decade ago. Due to the unfavorable commentary on the country that appears in the book, the state run General Egyptian Book Organisation told Aswany that Isam Abd el-Ati Papers would never be published unless he removed the offending chapters. His next two books were bestsellers for five years in the Arab world and are read in 27 different languages.

When he is not filling cavities or penning bestsellers, Aswany also writes newspaper columns voicing his views on Egypt’s regime. He says he’s convinced that Democracy is coming to Egypt and that the country will soon serve as a model for other Arab countries. “Now there are more and more protests in the street. Everyone is on strike. There is real pressure, you can feel it. You cannot deny it, even if you’re from the government.”

When asked if his fame has kept him from governmental backlash, he says, “I cannot compare what has happened to me with what has happened to some of my friends and comrades who have been tortured and beaten. What has happened to me – banning me from attending the premiere of The Yacoubian Building – is negligible in comparison. But, in any case, writing and fear are absolutely contradictory. Writing is an expression against fear.”

You can read the whole article at the Guardian UK’s site here.