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Friendly Fire Paperback – 4 Feb 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007314515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007314515
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 329,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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

About the Author

Alaa al Aswany was born in 1957. He is a dentist by profession, and for many years practised in the Yacoubian Building, which was to form the setting for his bestselling novel of the same name. He has written prolifically for Egyptian newspapers on politics, literature and social issues and his second novel, ‘Chicago’, was published by Fourth Estate in 2008.


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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PureSymmetry VINE VOICE on 20 July 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is actually my first reading of Al Aswany's work and am happy to have been exposed to it. I completed the book quickly and I found the work to be engaging and to flow well.

One of the issues one finds with some short story works is that the author can sometime skip over character or plot development but in this case the stories were well developed, with a good pace and flowed to a close naturally without the notion of being forced.

As other reviews have mentioned, all of the stories concern real life issues and perhaps illustrate that human needs/want/desires and particularly challenges move along the same lines albeit with different intensities.

A great introduction to a strong writer and a book worth owning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By W. Rodick TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Aug 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
On the whole I enjoyed reading this book of short stories. Ten stories of which the first is a ninety-two page novella entitled: 'He Who Drew Too Close and Saw.' The first chapter is a full-on onslaught against Egypt and its people. The narrator denigrates the world around him and it is not long into the story before I realise this is a Dostoyevsky-like tale of an outsider seeking an identity in a loveless world.

Whilst the endng is foreseeable, the story profits from the unfiltered experiences of the protagonist. I also begin a book-long trust of the writer's skill in pacing his well balanced prose. I begin to realise how conservative his environment is, even amongst many absorbing moments of Egyptian culture: the zither playing Uncle Anwar and the dancer being but one example.

The highlight of the story is the young Isam's destruction of something precious to his father. The confession to his face and his father's response is inspiring. Looking at his parent's wedding photo on the wall as he did it. There are discussions on national traits and very interesting perspectives on human talent and individual recognition. So, providing the compulsive obsessive protagonist does not bug you too much the story is worth reading.

Four of the remaining nine short stories are set in school. Three are concerned with female experience. One is conversing with religious ritual and one has an overtly political theme. Whilst I should not venture to speak for any woman, let alone all women, I would say that I think few would enjoy the implications behind the stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 April 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having read and enjoyed Alla Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building I did not hesitate when I saw this title. The novella He Who Drew Close and Saw, which occupies just over half the book, is an account narrated by Isam, a young Egyptian who clearly has a very low opinion of his countrymen. He briefly takes us through his childhood and to his working career, and along the way describes his relationships with his family, work colleagues and friends. Initially one is inclined to have less than positive thoughts about Isam, for he appears arrogant and selfish, yet there is something about him that wins the reader to his side; it is not until the neat twist at the end that we realise what that strange allure is.

The remainder of the book comprises nine short stories, all of which are centred on Egypt. Several revolve around children and the typical problems of growing up, including a bullying schoolteacher, the victimisation of an overweight boy, the bright new boy who everyone wants to befriend, and the triumph against adversity. Other stories tell of the trials of a bright young medical student who despite his brilliance seems unable to win approval, a political activist who has a vision, and an absentee son trying to justify his failure to support his ageing mother. What unites all these stories is their commentary on human nature, and often the Egyptian way of life. Al Aswany's penetrating perception and frank depiction of Egyptian culture is always tinged with wry humour and peopled with appealing characters. But whatever the story, and however short or even unresolved, one always is left with a thought provoking point to ponder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rowena Hoseason HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 May 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This collection will be of interest to confirmed fans of Al Aswany, but if this is your first encounter then I'd advise you to try The Yacoubian Building The Yacoubian Building or Chicago Chicago first.
Both of those are much more accessible and more polished than Friendly Fire. The stories in Friendly Fire were written before those two novels and feel as if they were intended for a domestic (Egyptian, that is) audience, while the other books have a more international appeal.
The titles of this collection couldn't be more accurate: Al Aswany spares no sentiment in his criticism of his country. His prose is sharp and almost bitter; the scenarios frequently reveal an unhappy, corrupt society. Think of Will Self's early short stories and transport him to Egypt and you'll be close!
So while much of Friendly Fire doesn't make for comfortable reading it IS extremely revealing. There are universal truths here; human behaviour does not differ greatly be it set in Egyptian or English society. There's much to wince at, much to feel ashamed about, and an occasional glimmer of hope that through understanding can come improvement.
Difficult, but rewarding.
8/10
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