Friendly Fire

Alaa Al Aswany

‘Friendly Fire’ is a novella and collection of short stories from Alaa Al Aswany, author of the bestselling ‘The Yacoubian Building’. As in that novel, Al Aswany dissects modern Egyptian society and, with skill and detachment, reveals the hypocrisy, violence and abuse of power characteristic of a world in moral crisis. Here, though, the focus has shifted from the broad historical canvas to the minute stitches of pain that hold together an individual, a family, a school classroom and the relationship between a man and a woman. Can a man so alienated from his society that he regards all its members as no better than microbes wriggling under a microscope survive within it? Can cynical religiosity triumph over human decency? Can a man put the thought of a delicious dish of beans behind him long enough to mourn his father’s death? Alongside these wry questions, other, less mordant perspectives also have their place: an ageing cabaret dancer bestows the blessing of a vanished world on her lover’s son; a crippled boy wins subjective victory from objective disaster. In ‘Friendly Fire’, readers will find again the vivid, passionate characters of today’s Cairo, clamouring to be heard. ‘Friendly Fire’ also features an introduction by Alaa Al Aswany giving the history of the novella, ‘The Isam Abd el-Ati Papers’, which was banned in Egypt for a decade.

Reviews of Friendly Fire

    • ‘An acute observer … Al Aswany continues to be a voice worth hearing from a country of which we know far too little’ Sunday Times
    • ‘Aswany’s anger with his country’s political and social unfairness clearly has a foundation in a personal love for it … affecting, human and very personal’ The Times
    • ‘Alaa Al Aswany is a world writer, making Egyptian concerns into human ones and beautifully illuminating our always extraordinary and sometimes sad and baffling world’ The Times
    • ‘Alaa Al Aswany is among the best writers in the Middle East today, a suitable heir to the mantle worn by Naquib Mahfouz, his great predecessor, whose influence is felt on every page. Yet Al Aswany has his own magic.’ Guardian
    • ‘A wonderful storyteller and a cynically astute observer of human folly and frailty.’ Spectator