... a multi-voiced work of elation and despair — as the power of the people briefly triumphed over an oppressive and unscrupulous autocracy — and a vivid take on both sides of the revolution, from the perspective of those who either enthusiastically supported or violently opposed the reforms ... a lively, versatile and frequently chilling English translation by SR Fellowes ... above all, a robust and brave undertaking. For this reason a surreal air hovers above the prose, which veers between uneasy irony and straight-out reportage, even though the characters are fictional ... Aswany’s skewering of the excesses of corruption is written in a deceptively benevolent style, further enhancing the background noise of disquiet and outright terror, which grows almost deafening as the novel progresses ... If the novel has a major flaw it is that Aswany relies too much on stereotypes to create a sense of depth and connection. Yet despite this The Republic of False Truths is a blistering, bold dissection of a failed revolution, and of the disenchantment and dissent that inevitably follow.
... a polyphonic novel, in a lively translation here by SR Fellowes, whose various narratives offer glimpses of the gathering unrest across Cairo society as the characters’ lives converge on Tahrir Square ... Al-Aswany has always had a sharp eye for the inflated self-love of the powerful and knows that the most effective attack is mockery; in this respect, he is often compared to Mario Vargas Llosa. If the general appears almost cartoonish at times, he is intended as the caricature of a type ... Elsewhere, the author draws his characters with more delicate strokes ... a glorious, humane novel that chronicles the failure of a revolution and its personal cost without ever quite extinguishing hope of a better future.
Wissa’s transformation is finely traced and points to an important truth about the 2011 revolts. It was the young people, acting outside established parties, who taught their elders how to rise up and remove a dictator ... It is here that Aswany’s basically melodramatic approach to storytelling becomes a handicap. In his novel, the deep state’s response to the revolution is masterminded by the general of the opening scene. He effortlessly marshals Egypt’s media elite to turn on the protesters, branding them as foreign agents who can be shot down in the streets ... Rather than the messy, unscripted drama of fallible characters colliding with one another in the midst of a historical crisis, we have a soap opera in which a monolithic state apparatus batters its noble and self-sacrificing youth...This doesn’t leave much room for novelistic complication...It is also unsatisfying as history. What about the Egyptians who didn’t fall into either camp? Aswany treats the Muslim Brotherhood as an object of crude satire — like many Egyptian leftists, he regards Islamism as merely a mask for venality — and shows little interest in ordinary citizens who don’t support the revolution ... Aswany often mocks the conspiracy theories of sheikhs and army officers, who painted the revolution as a foreign plot. But his own novel ends up suggesting that the Egyptian state is exactly the sort of all-powerful and farseeing entity that its ideologues make it out to be — a myth the revolutionaries of 2011 spent so much blood to expose.