Since the revolution, many books have been published on former President Hosni Mubarak, his son Gamal, and their entourage. Everyday, the genre seems to grow, with newspapers and books bombarding the readers with what they call the “real truth.” But how can a discerning reader find the best book with which to educate themselves on a regime they helped eradicate?
A few days after Mubarak left office, scores of previously banned books about the regime began appearing for sale. “The Replacement President,” “A Red Card for the President” and “The Last Days” by Abdel Halim Qandil were a big hit, selling for a very reasonable 10LE in stalls around Tahrir Square and elsewhere in downtown Cairo. The same books could be found for double the price in big bookstores; in wealthy Zamalek, “The Replacement President” would cost readers interested in previously hidden secrets 35LE.
“My books are the fruit of a long crusade against the former President Hosni Mubarak that started in July 2000,” said renowned journalist and writer Qandil. His books often aim to raise the ceiling of criticism against a rotten regime.
“My aim was to put the ruler under the spotlight and combat the myth of the untouchables,” said the journalist. Qandil’s books and articles began a moral eradication of the president before the fall of his regime.
Qandil’s second message is to convey that revolution is possible.
“I predicted a revolution born in Tahrir in an article written in al-Karama newspaper in July 2006 called ‘Mubarak falls in Tahrir Square,’” claims the writer.
Qandil’s third aim involves Egypt post-revolution, battling the lack of awareness and combating religious currents.
“Egypt paid the price for Mubarak once while under his reign, and they are paying a second time after his fall,” said Qandil.
“My books are now public property. Many entities sell, print and republish them. I aim my words like bullets to target the mind and the heart,” said Qandil. The success of his books, according to the author and his growing audience, is based on courage, honesty, integrity, and style. Regarding the trend of books on the revolution, Qandil said, “These books are a natural response to the political and economic state of the country. Victory has a thousand fathers but no one wants to be associated with defeat,” he added.
But Qandil has little regard for the majority of these books, published in haste to capitalize on the current political state. His writing, which predated Mubarak’s ouster, is much more legitimate, he asserts.
“These commercial books are like paper tissue, to be used once then thrown away in the garbage,” he said. “Saying the truth in the right time when it is needed has a price and I paid it. Now, more and more people are trying to catch up with the wave."
Qandil does not think the revolution is over. “The wells of anger are still buried under Egyptian lands, and more and more will erupt over time,” he said.
This comes as good news to Tahrir-area book vendors, who say their sales have doubled since the revolution.
“Abdel Halim Qandil books are a hit,” said Ahmed, one vendor.
Many consider these books to be a textbook for the revolution.
"These books predicted what happened,” said a book vendor in Bab al-Louk. Regarding other books that have been published post-revolution, he said, "Those sell as well, but not as much as the others,” pointing to "The Last Days." He rarely reads, he said, but after the revolution he has started skimming through what he sells. “Definitely more people are interested in revolution books these days; I see new faces every day."