Friendly Fire, the first collection of short stories from Alaa Al Aswany, acclaimed author of Chicago and The Yacoubian Building, deftly explores the lives o. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Friendly Fire by Alaa Al Aswany. Friendly Fire. Alaa al Aswany, Author, Humphrey Davies, Translator. Harper Perennial $ (p) ISBN

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Friendly Fire by Alaa Al Aswany.

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Cairo calling

Alaa Al Friendoy first two novels, The Yacoubian Building and Chicago ifre, follow a variety of characters’ stories, alternating between them to weave a larger picture of contemporary Egypt, or the life of Egyptians abroad. In contrast, in Friendly Firewhich includes one nearly hundred-page long novella as well as sixteen stories, the focus in each piece is very narrowly and almost constantly on an individual often the narrator.


Al Aswany’s writing is generally tighter and more consistent in these smaller, more concentrated efforts — perhaps because he doesn’t have to force freindly between episodes and takes the freedom to only write what needs be written. Yet the much greater scale and reach of his novels, and his free-wheeling mix of stories in them is a great part of their appeal, and while the stories collected in Friendly Fire are well done, the sum of them does not have nearly the power of, especially, a novel such as The Yacoubian Building.

Aswxni stories in Friendly Fire are set in contemporary Egypt, and the characters are generally not very well off though few live in abject or desperate poverty. Several stories show the transition of a character from a position of powerlessness to becoming part of this prevalent system, most shockingly in the case of an admired schoolmate who first seems to stand up against the system but then embraces it.

Alaa Al Aswany – Wikipedia

Most of the characters have accepted the prevailing system — cowering almost naturally before the powers that be — and while Al Aswany describes a few attempts to challenge it, most ultimately fail against the deeply entrenched way things are; several stories end showing how the characters resign themselves to the way things are, in a number of different ways.


Even the rare hopeful ending is clearly delusional, as in ‘Waiting for the Leader’, where a follower of the Wafd a political party that was long outlawed has a vision of the dead party leader, Mustafa el-Nahhas, and follows the instructions he believes he has heard, to wait for the long dead man in front of the building that is the ‘symbolic home of the Wafd Party’. The pieces range from the relatively fully-developed novella that opens the friendlt to several stories that are little more than sketches of a single episode, but Al Aswan presents the stories quite well throughout.

The consistent bleakness — not horrible misery, but simply a heavy sense that little in this particular world can be improved — can be wearing. It is, however, a solid collection, and in some respects even more revealing about contemporary Egypt than The Yacoubian Building even frienely it is not quite as enjoyable a reading experience. fkre

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