Ahmed Naji is the Author of Using Life
Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji will read excerpts from his work and discuss the remarkable events that led to his imprisonment (on charges of “violating public modesty” that were ultimately overturned). Naji has been an outspoken critic of political corruption and violence in Egypt.
VCLA’s Founding Director Sean Murphy will join the author to discuss his ordeal, and how his experiences (before, during, after) his imprisonment have shaped his writing.
Copies of Naji’s book will be available for sale & signing.
About the Book:
Upon its initial release in Arabic in the fall of 2014, Using Life received acclaim in Egypt and the wider Arab world. But in 2016, Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison after a reader complained that an excerpt published in a literary journal harmed public morality. His imprisonment marks the first time in modern Egypt that an author has been jailed for a work of literature. Writers and literary organizations around the world rallied to support Naji, and he was released in December 2016. His original conviction was overturned in May 2017.
Set in modern-day Cairo, Using Life follows a young filmmaker, BassamAhmed. Bahgat, after a secret society hires him to create a series of documentary films about the urban planning and architecture of Cairo. The plot in which Bassam finds himself ensnared unfolds in the novel's unique mix of text and black-and-white illustrations.
The Society of Urbanists, Bassam discovers, is responsible for centuries of world-wide conspiracies that have shaped political regimes, geographical boundaries, reigning ideologies, and religions. It is responsible for today's Cairo, and for everywhere else, too. Yet its methods are subtle and indirect: it operates primarily through manipulating urban architecture, rather than brute force. As Bassam immerses himself in the Society and its shadowy figures, he finds Cairo on the brink of a planned apocalypse, designed to wipe out the whole city and rebuild anew.