Using Life

(Author) (Illustrator)
& 1 more

Product Details

Ctr for Middle Eastern Studies Ut-Austin
Publish Date
6.6 X 9.5 X 0.5 inches | 0.9 pounds
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About the Author

Ahmed Naji is the author of numerous works of creative nonfiction, including a history of the Arabic blogosphere entitled al-Mudawwinat: Min al-Bust ila al-Twit(Blogs: From Post to Tweet). He is also an editor of and contributor to Akhbar al-Adab, Egypt's foremost literary magazine. His first novel, Rogers, has been translated into Italian. After his imprisonment, he was granted the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in recognition of his long struggle in support of freedom of expression.

Ayman Al Zorkany is an illustrator and costume designer. In 2009, he left a career in advertising to devote himself to his own work, which has been exhibited at the Egyptian Opera House and the 2012 International Comics Salon in Erlangen, Germany, and featured in several short films and television commercials. The images he designed for Using Life have appeared in special exhibits in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as the 2016 Festival of Mediterranean Literature in Lucera, Italy.

Benjamin Koerber is an assistant professor in the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures at Rutgers University.


"Alan Moore meets Nahgib Mafouz in this exuberant, subversive novel by Egyptian writer Naji--who was jailed for his troubles. . . . A fly-on-the-wall view of an Egypt few outsiders know and one that, in its insistence on unveiled expression, offers hope for a more democratic future."-- (09/19/2017)
"Using Life, which has been vividly translated into English by Benjamin Koerber, is a ribald, streetwise, outrageously inventive speculative fiction that hammers at the chaos and dysfunction of Egyptian life while testifying to the vitality of its counterculture. . . . Even as Egyptian authorities play to the dystopian script by attempting to punish the author for his heterodoxies, his book memorably celebrates the country's underground seams of freedom and individual expression."-- (12/22/2017)
"[Using Life] is full of intimate familiarity, occasional tender scorn, and a fervent curiousity toward city and man's entwined fates that is also somehow cooly detached."--Electric Literature (09/06/2018)
"The book is an experiment, wild and weird, full of non sequiturs and oddball imagery...Perhaps it is subversive precisely for its love of whimsy; in a culture beset with political gloom, it agitates for the freedom to be unserious."-- (01/01/2018)
"[Naji's] story, liberally and whimsically illustrated, follows a 'professional kiss-ass' who ends up stumbling upon a dystopian architectural conspiracy. The real revelation, though, is the cynicism and paralysis afflicting Bassam and his friends, victims of political and religious forces squandering a great city's creativity."-- (11/07/2017)
"[A] book that infuses new urgency and excitement in the Egyptian, and now international, literary world."--Words Without Borders (12/01/2017)
"The craziest and most inventive dystopian routine fails to tilt Using Life toward fantasy. Naji's skill is making such madness read like journalism. This reviewer has never been to Cairo; after reading this book, not only do I want to go, but I also want to take a bath. Imagine William S. Burroughs without the zest for life and underlying humanism."-- (04/01/2019)