Acclaimed Egyptian novelist and activist Alaa Al Aswany and American poet Linda Gregerson read selections from their work on Feb. 7 as part of the 2017-2018 Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series sponsored by the Program in Creative Writing. 

Aswany was introduced by Professor of Creative Writing Jhumpa Lahiri, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Gregerson was introduced by Lecturer in Creative Writing Monica Youn ‘93.

Aswany began the reading with a translated excerpt from his 2002 novel The Yacoubian Building. Most of the text focused on Zaki Bey el Dessouki, an elderly and well-educated man as well as a self-declared expert in pursuing women. The book has been translated into 22 languages. It was the best-selling Arabic novel from 2002 to 2003 and was adapted into the highest-grossing Egyptian film of all time. 

Gregerson read several poems including “Sleeping Bear.” After the reading, Gregerson remarked that she enjoyed coming to the University, noting that it has “greatly changed” since her last visit. 

“I come every once in a while, but I also lived here one year while I was at the Institute for Advanced Study,” she said in an interview at the event.

She had good things to say about the new Lewis Center Complex, calling it “spectacular” and “really handsome.”

The reading was well-attended by both University students and outside guests. 

“I think the contrast between his novel and her poems was interesting”, said Pam McGowen ‘20, who was encouraged to attend this event by the Program in Creative Writing. “They both dealt with different topics, and it was great to compare them to each other, and I appreciated both.”

“I’m writing my senior thesis on disappearance in Patagonia, and I admire the way [Gregerson] describes nature and humans and the way they interact,” said Kyle Berlin ‘18. “I found her writing and delivery quite beautiful. I come to a lot of readings, and I really admired the content and was also impressed by the turnout tonight.” 

After the event, everyone was invited for food and an opportunity to talk with the invitees and have their book copies signed. 

As with this event, all future readings will be free and open to the public. The next reading in the Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series will feature Osama Alomar and Luc Sante on March 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lewis Arts Complex.

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