The Republic of False Truths by Alaa al-Aswany review – the personal cost of a failed coup

This fictionalised account of the Egyptian uprising of 2011 has an eye for telling detail in the choice between struggle and self-preservation

Early on in Alaa al-Aswany’s new novel, The Republic of False Truths, a conversation takes place between an older and a younger man that proves bleakly prophetic for what is to follow. Essam Shaalan, once a student protest leader in the 1970s, is now the manager of a foreign-owned Cairo factory; Mazen Saqqa, a young engineer, is the son of Shaalan’s former comrade and a union representative for the striking workers.

“You want to know the truth?” Shaalan tells Saqqa. “Egyptians don’t revolt, or if they do, their revolution is bound to fail because they’re cowardly and submissive by nature… The Egyptians love a dictatorial hero and feel safe when they submit to despotism. In Egypt, the only thing your struggle can lead to is your own destruction.”

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