CAIRO – 10 May 2018: "Jomhouriat Ka’an" (Republic of As IF), written by Egyptian novelist and opposition figure Alaa al-Aswani, has been hit by a huge wave of criticism from Parliament members.
“Upon the first look, there are institutions, a Parliament, a constitution and courts, but if you take a closer look, you find all of them [not as real as they look],” late author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik wrote in “Ida2a” in an article published March 23, describing the moral intended by Aswani’s novel.
Aswani's novel is talking about "how media and government formed [a malicious] alliance" to create what he calls "The Republic of As If," according to the cover of his novel.
Journalist Mostafa Bakri, a member of the Parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, criticized the novel, saying that Aswani has been hostile toward the country and the state institutions, adding that he keeps on insulting the state’s patriot figures.
In an interview with Egypt Today, Bakri said that Aswani only aims, through his writings, to satisfy and follow the agenda of the western nations. He also accused Aswani of spreading lies.
Bakri has been known for his support to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi
MP Nader Mostafa, secretary general of the committee, said that some states have failed to deliver their funds to the traitors inside the country, so these funds are now used to attract some authors and give them the chance to attack the state, adding that the state is in dire need of writers who can support it.
Mostafa is a member of the pro-governmental Parliament’s majority “Egypt Support” coalition.
Khaled Tawfik's Analysis
Commenting on the novel, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, who died on April 2 at the age of 55, said, “As usual, you feel that Alaa al-Aswani [gives the priority to] the western Francophone reader. He writes what [this reader] likes.”
“I recognized in all his novels that he does not address Israel; maybe this reflects [his] noble ambition to [win] the noble prize; an author who attacks Israel will ever win the noble [prize].” Aswani’s most famous novel, "Yacoubian Building", was translated to Hebrew in 2016, which triggered Egyptian condemnation.
Despite the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1979, Egyptian people have denounced Israel’s policies against Palestinians, holding the “Israeli occupation” of Palestine responsible for killing numerous Palestinian unarmed citizens.
“Aswani extremely hates the [Muslim] Brotherhood,” Tawfik stated. “'Republic of As If' is the republic where everything looks real. However, everything is an illusion,” Tawfik concluded.
Dentist-turned-novelist, Aswani wrote "Omaret Yacoubian", translated as "The Yacoubian Building”, in 2002. The novel followed the lives of various people within the titular Yacoubian Building in Downtown Cairo.
A screenshot of the Yacoubian Building film - Khaled Al-Sawi (L) and Bassem Samra (R)
A film was released in 2006 based on the novel by director Marwan Hamed, and starred various Egyptian stars such as Adel Imam, Hend Sabry, and Nour el Sherif.
The novel was hit by much criticism, as it incorporates promiscuity and homosexuality, which are described in explicit details.
Additional reporting by Mohamed Sobhy