All revolutionaries want their stories told to the world, and no one has conveyed the hopes and dreams of Egyptians more vividly than Alaa Al Aswany. The dentist turned author rose to fame with his 2002 novel, The Yacoubian Building, which charted Egypt's cultural upheaval and gradual dilapidation since throwing off its colonial shackles.
Aswany used his prominence to help found the Kefaya political movement, which first articulated the demands that would energize the youth in Tahrir Square: an end to corruption, a rejection of hereditary rule, and the establishment of a true democratic culture. For his political activism, Aswany was blacklisted by Egypt’s state-owned publishing houses, and security officials harassed the owner of the cafe where he met with young writers.
How times change. Aswany was a fixture in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s uprising — he was almost killed three times, he said, during the running battles between demonstrators and pro-Mubarak thugs. And he has tried to keep the revolution’s spirit alive since, pressing the country’s ruling military junta to remove the vestiges of Hosni Mubarak’s regime and assailing Egypt’s Islamists for their willingness to sacrifice the movement’s principles for a taste of power. In the process, Aswany has given voice to a people silenced for too long. “Revolution is like a love story,” he said in February. “When you are in love, you become a much better person. And when you are in revolution, you become a much better person.”