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This week on One on One, Riz Khan meets best-selling author and commentator, Alaa Al Aswany.

His ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society has made him one of the most widely-read authors in the Arab world.

That success has empowered him in other areas – including politics – in a country where politics is a sensitive issue.

Writing was in his family – although Alaa Al Aswany's father – an award-winning novelist in Egypt – died when his son was only 19.

Al Aswany trained as a dentist and practiced in Cairo, but became a regular writer of articles on literature, politics and social issues – often critical of president Hosni Mubarak.

Now on the international circuit as a best-selling author, Al Aswany can smile quietly when he remembers his repeatedly unsuccessful efforts, over many years, to get his first book published.

When it was eventually picked up by a small publisher in 2002, The Yacoubian Building instantly became a massive hit – selling in various editions around the world, and was made into an equally successful movie in 2006 featuring some of the Arab world's biggest stars.

It touched a raw nerve in the Middle Eastern culture by focusing on issues that are considered largely personal or taboo in the Arab world.

In his second novel Chicago, in 2007, Al Aswany drew on his time in the American city of the same name, where he spent two years on a dentistry scholarship in the mid-1980s.

It continues the writer's interest in examining the political, emotional and social tangles of human nature, largely from an Arab perspective.

This episode of One on One aired from Friday, February 13, 2009 at the following times GMT:
1030; Saturday: 0330, 1430, 2330; Sunday: 0730; Monday: 0030.

Source: Al Jazeera