…of the Yacoubian Buildings. Raouf Moussad in El-Ahram Weekly:
By comparing the Arabic original to the English translation, by Humphrey Davies (American University in Cairo Press, 2004), I noticed a remarkable difference in the terms used for same sex practices. The Arabic uses terms like ” shuzuz ” (meaning deviancy or abnormality) and its derivatives, which correspond to English usages such as “fag”, “faggot” and “poofter”. By contrast, the English translation replaces shaz and shuzuz by “homosexual” and “homosexuality”, which do not imply sexual practices that are deviant from the social norm. It’s as if the Arabic original urges the reader to condemn people who practice same sex, whereas the English version sympathises with them.
The treatment of homosexuals at the hands of Al-Aswany is similar to the treatment of Nubians and Christians — two groups marginalised in Egyptian society — in the novel. With all three groups, we need to ask why it was that Al-Aswany chose to represent them only to vent his venom against them. Is it because they cannot answer back, because their complaints will fall on deaf ears in a society that consistently ignores them, or casts them outside?