No Exceptions

For years, the West talked up democracy around the world, but, despite the occasional gentle slap on the wrist, we accepted that there was an Arab exception to the desire for freedom and accountability. The West now has to accept that if there is no “Arab exception,” there is no “China exception,” either.

LONDON – Anyone who has read The Yacoubian Building, a novel published in 2002 by the Egyptian author Alaa-al-Aswany, will regard the revolution in Egypt as long overdue. The novel’s readers will not have been astonished by the ease with which the rotting hulk of Hosni Mubarak’s regime was dashed against the rocks, nor by the spirit and courage of those who engineered this extraordinary piece of history.

First things first: it is a very funny and perceptive book about the characters occupying a fashionable Cairo apartment block (which really exists) and squatting in hovels on its roof.  Like the crumbling “Majestic” hotel in J. G. Farrell’s novel Troubles, about the end of British rule in southern Ireland, the eponymous apartment block was a metaphor for the state, and its inhabitants are figures representative of different aspects of Mubarak’s Egypt.

I suppose that censors never have much of a sense of humor, and that irony and parody are usually beyond their intellectual grasp. But I did find it curious that The Yacoubian Building was not banned in Egypt – or in other Arab countries – and that subsequently it was turned into a popular and widely shown film. Al-Aswany told his readers so very clearly what was wrong with modern Egypt, while also demonstrating that, despite the corruption and the dead hand of the security police, Cairenes fizzed with personality and showed a feisty urban grace.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/plJdxUb;
  1. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

    The Brexit Surrender

    European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have given the go-ahead to talks with Britain on post-Brexit trade relations. But, as European Council President Donald Tusk has said, the most difficult challenge – forging a workable deal that secures broad political support on both sides – still lies ahead.

  2. The Great US Tax Debate

    ROBERT J. BARRO vs. JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS on the impact of the GOP tax  overhaul.


    • Congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax-reform package that will reshape the business environment by lowering the corporate-tax rate and overhauling deductions. 

    • But will the plan's far-reaching changes provide the boost to investment and growth that its backers promise?


    ROBERT J. BARRO | How US Corporate Tax Reform Will Boost Growth

    JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS | Robert Barro's Tax Reform Advocacy: A Response

  3. Murdoch's Last Stand?

    Rupert Murdoch’s sale of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney for $66 billion may mark the end of the media mogul’s career, which will long be remembered for its corrosive effect on democratic discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. 

    From enabling the rise of Donald Trump to hacking the telephone of a murdered British schoolgirl, Murdoch’s media empire has staked its success on stoking populist rage.

  4. Bank of England Leon Neal/Getty Images

    The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

    Since the hyperinflation of the 1970s, which central banks were right to combat by whatever means necessary, maintaining positive but low inflation has become a monetary-policy obsession. But, because the world economy has changed dramatically since then, central bankers have started to miss the monetary-policy forest for the trees.

  5. Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel Measures the GOP’s Tax Plan

    Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, outlines the five criteria he uses to judge the efficacy of tax reform efforts. And in his view, the US Republicans’ most recent offering fails miserably.

  6. A box containing viles of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

    The Holy Grail of Genetic Engineering

    CRISPR-Cas – a gene-editing technique that is far more precise and efficient than any that has come before it – is poised to change the world. But ensuring that those changes are positive – helping to fight tumors and mosquito-borne illnesses, for example – will require scientists to apply the utmost caution.

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now