Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Dictatorship Syndrome (2019), gives a talk for the Middle East Centre seminar series. Chaired by Professor Eugene Rogan (St Antony's College, Oxford)
Alaa Al Aswany is Egypt’s most celebrated novelist and essayist whose books are runaway bestsellers in Arabic and have been translated into more than 30 languages. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building (2002) established Al Aswany as a global literary figure. This was followed by Chicago (2007), The Automobile Club (2013), and most recently, The So-called Republic (2018).
A newspaper columnist until he was banned from publishing by the Egyptian government, Al Aswany has published a number of works of non-fiction treating on current affairs, including On the State of Egypt: What Made the Revolution Inevitable (2011), and Democracy is the Answer: Egypt’s Years of Revolution (2015). His most recent book is The Dictatorship Syndrome (2020), where he considers the conditions, signs, symptoms, and cures for what he terms the malady of dictatorship.
The study of dictatorship in the West has acquired an almost exotic dimension. But authoritarian regimes remain a painful reality for billions of people worldwide who still live under them, their freedoms violated and their rights abused. They are subject to arbitrary arrest, torture, corruption, ignorance, and injustice. What is the nature of dictatorship? How does it take hold? In what conditions and circumstances is it permitted to thrive? And how do dictators retain power, even when reviled and mocked by those they govern? In this deeply considered and at times provocative short work, Alaa Al Aswany tells us that, as with any disease, to understand the syndrome of dictatorship we must first consider the circumstances of its emergence, along with the symptoms and complications it causes in both the people and the dictator.