Writing from The Key Voice During the Arab Spring
Alaa Abd el-Fattah, 39, is arguably the most high profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world. A leading figure among the young technologists and bloggers of the 2000s he rose to international prominence during the revolution of 2011. A fiercely independent thinker who fuses politics and technology in powerful prose, an activist whose ideas represent a global generation which has only known struggle against a failing system, a public intellectual with the rare courage to offer personal, painful honesty, Alaa’s written voice came to symbolize much of what was fresh, inspiring and revolutionary about the uprisings that have defined the last decade.
Alaa has been in prison for most of the last seven years and many of the pieces collected here were smuggled out of his cell. From theses on technology, to theories of history, to painful reflections on the meaning of prison, his voice in these pages – arranged by family and friends – cuts as sharply relevant, as dangerous, as ever.
With a preface by Naomi Klein.
»The text you are holding is living history.«
»Don’t read this book to be comforted. Read it to be challenged, terrified, enlightened, moved, and amazed.«
»Alaa is the bravest, most critical, most engaged citizen of us all. At a time when Egypt has been turned into a large prison, Alaa has managed to cling to his humanity and be the freest Egyptian.«
Khaled Fahmy, author of All The Pasha’s Men
»Alaa is in prison not because he committed a crime, not because he said too much, but because his very existence poses a threat to the state. Those who are bold, those who do not relent, will always threaten the terrified and ultimately weak state which must, to survive, squash its opponents like flies. But Alaa will not allow himself to be crushed like that, I know.«
Jillian C. York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
»Alaa is a philosopher of everyday life and life-long struggle; he doesn’t merely find meaning in that which we go through, especially in dark political moments, but creates meaning and gives it form in writing. And he does so from a highly entrenched and implicated place in the present. His thoughts know no frontiers; they pierce through local contexts to inspire new modes of thinking about the chaotic substance of politics.«
Lina Attalah, editor in chief of Mada Masr
»[You Have Not Yet Been Defeated] is really a book about January and its aftermath. Not in the form of a straightforward journalistic recording of events, but an attempt to convey the passions and the frustrations that the moment made possible. Throughout the chronologically arranged essays, the reader gets a sense of how Alaa’s voice changes as his imprisonment continues and the world around him appears even more impervious to change. The focus on the personal is therefore not simply a quirk of Alaa’s style of expression; it is testament to the fact that, in Egypt, the boundaries between the personal and the political are not respected by political authorities... We should not read this book to make an exception of Alaa. At his best, he attempts to speak to, and to bring into existence, a movement bigger than himself.«
»"Fix your own democracy,” Abd el-Fattah encourages us, from his cell; Egypt’s rulers attempt to isolate, fragment and conceal resistance because it needs a global ecosystem to flourish. What can any one person do with a legacy of pain, struggle and courage? There are no easy solutions here, but You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a heartbreaking, hopeful answer.«
»There is a defiant joy about his prose. He has turned the dark prison space of his jail into a bright public sphere where he is far more liberated inside his solitary cell than he would have been freely floating in the streets of Cairo. In his defiant prose, in the new Arab personhood he exemplifies, Alaa Abd el-Fattah is a living testimony that the Arab revolutions have been a resounding success.«
Middle East Eye
»That the Egyptian activist is writing from a cell reminds us of the fragility of our remaining freedoms; that his arguments continue to be self-interrogating, engaging and complex is a rebuke to the comfortable moral certainties of social media.«
Times Literary Supplement, TLS Books of the Year
»Both an archive and a blueprint: an archive of a revolution deferred, and a blueprint for bringing the world that it dreamt of into existence.«
»It is this steadfast devotion to the Egyptian people that make Alaa’s entries in You Have Not Yet Been Defeated the most honest and compelling document that we have of the state of Egypt today. We learn that, in Alaa’s reluctance to grasp the limelight, there isn’t space for ego, nor time for complacency when lives are at stake.«
The New Arab
»The work of Alaa and other Egyptian dissidents remains an example of intellectual creativity and moral integrity.«
London Review of Books
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Alaa Abd el-Fattah
Alaa Abd el-Fattah is an Egyptian writer, technologist and political activist. He is currently being held in indefinite detention in Egypt. He was a central figure in the blogging movement of the early 2000s, a vanguard of free speech and radical discourse that would become one of the catalysts of the 2011 revolution. Committed to using both on-the-ground activism and online platforms to push an uncompromising political discourse, Alaa was 24 when he was first arrested under Hosni Mubarak. Since then he has been prosecuted and arrested by the three other Egyptian regimes of his lifetime. After the coup d'etat of 2013, he was among the principal targets of the counter-revolution and has been held in the regime’s prisons since then. Collected here by his family and friends, for the first time in English, are a selection of his speeches, interviews, social media posts and essays since the outbreak of revolution in January 2011 – many written from inside prison.