Oppression, wealth gaps spurs satire in Egypt

Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:34am EDT
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By Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - Poking fun at everything from the president's almost 30-year rule to the capital's frenetic traffic, satirical books are filling more shelf space in Egypt's bookshops and reflecting the frustrations of a young generation.

"There Must be a Solution," with a caricature of a jaded, unkempt citizen leaning up against a garbage can on its cover, and "Egypt is not my mother, she's my stepmother," punning the local idiom "Masr Umm Al Donia" (Egypt is the mother of the world) are among the more popular works.

Other titles show that the subversive message often appeals to the youth, like "Captain Egypt: a Satirical Album for Teenagers," which plays on the challenges facing the young in the country of 78 million.

Limited outlets for political expression, state crackdowns on organized dissent and a growing wealth gap in the Arab world's most populous state are fuelling demand for such literary satire, literary critics say.

"The more of a totalitarian rulership you have, the more oppression, the more satire you have," said literary critic Rabie Moftah. "It is a form of resistance."

Satirical literature has long been a feature of Egypt's cultural scene. But it is now more commercial and accessible particularly to a younger audience by using street-wise Arabic and, some critics say, by becoming more slapstick.

This literary opposition does not point to a big enough movement to shift Egypt's course as it approaches elections, when Mubarak's ruling party is not expected to face any significant challenge. But it is one more channel of dissent.

"Until this moment, only a few of those works are trying to shape political and social awareness," says Nabil Abdel Fattah at the Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. "They will not have a strong impact in the coming period."   Continued...