When The Yacoubian Building first appeared in Egypt in 2002, there was considerable surprise that its author, Alaa Al Aswany, escaped censorship. Though the country is officially a democracy, in practice the right to speak out against either Islam or President Mubarak and his government is severely restricted. A young blogger called Abdel-Karim Nabil Suleiman was jailed not long ago for four years for his outspokenness.
Yet The Yacoubian Building, a humorous, sometimes tragic tale of life in a decayed apartment block in downtown Cairo, was published uncensored and became an immediate bestseller across the Arab world, despite its clear portrayal of a society riddled with corruption and violence. Asked by interviewers how this was allowed