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Works of Radical Imagination

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Powerful ideas of protest and freedom of expression from the world-reknown Egyptian political prisoner and activist.

With a foreword by Naomi Klein

"The text you are holding is living history." — Naomi Klein, from the Foreword

Alaa Abd el-Fattah is arguably the most high-profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world, rising 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. Collected here for the first time in English are a selection of his essays, social media posts and interviews from 2011 until the present. He has spent the majority of those years in prison, where many of these pieces were written. Together, they present not only a unique account from the frontline of a decade of global upheaval, but a catalogue of ideas about other futures those upheavals could yet reveal. From theories on technology and history to profound reflections on the meaning of prison, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a book about the importance of ideas, whatever their cost.

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“To read it is to be impressed, over and over, with the writer’s combination of honesty, originality, and humility. It is to be amazed by how often Abd el-Fattah is right, not in the sense that he knows what to do, but in the sense that he so often sees the truth of each messy, polarizing, often hopeless juncture. His writing is sharp and funny, passionate and vulnerable, straining generously to find something useful to say. . . . You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is an invaluable record of events in Egypt in the past decade, of the evolution of a leftist, humanist, internationalist thinker, and of the efforts of a remarkable person not to come undone in the face of overwhelming injustice.

“This mosaic of texts builds a picture of both the principles of resistance and democracy-building and the ugly, absurd, frightening, occasionally joyful experience of living by them in a stubbornly unreformed dictatorship. It’s also a reckoning with the legacy of his much-loved father, the human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who was imprisoned and tortured under Anwar Sadat and Mubarak. “From my father, I inherited a prison cell and a dream,” Abd el-Fattah writes. In 2011, he is in prison for the birth of his son Khaled, just as his father missed the birth of his sister Mona; in 2014, he misses his father’s death, too… But like the success of the revolution in 2011, its defeat isn’t only an Egyptian story. The rest of us are the “you” of the book’s title, and the speech it is drawn from makes a call to understand and protect the internet as a space for “universal rights and freedoms” – to see and act against tax avoidance, policy interference, the gig economy, algorithms that promote fake news, the exploitation of our data, our reduction to passive eyeballs for advertisers. “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.”

[A] damning indictment of the authoritarianism and violence of the Egyptian state... Very few of the accounts of 2011 that have emerged over the past ten years capture the emotional intensity of the moment and the tragedy of its aftermath as perceptively as Alaa does in [You Have Not Yet Been Defeated]. These essays are necessary reading for anyone who wishes to understand the last decade of Egyptian politics. Ostensibly, the collection seems to be narrowly concerned with Alaa; however, his perspective serves as a lens into contemporary political life in Egypt. As the title suggests, [You Have Not Yet Been Defeated] is an attempt to encourage us to look beyond defeat as a framework for interpreting the events of the January revolution.”

“Written with blood and fire, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a brilliant and devastating testament by one of Egypt's great revolutionaries.”

“In a totalitarian system where even ideas are punishable with imprisonment, this collection of essays from one of Egypt’s most high-profile political prisoners is like an oasis in a desolate landscape. Part manifesto, part memoir, and part record of some of Abd El-Fattah’s trial scenes that are more than worthy of Kafka, the book contains passages smuggled out from Cairo’s infamous Tora prison.”

“You can’t jail a revolution. Alaa Abd el-Fattah is proof. These essays, many handwritten and smuggled from a prison cell, breathe life into the 2011 moment, what shaped its revolutionary possibilities and terrible betrayals. This book is a memory of Tahrir Square that still reverberates like a heartbeat throughout the world.”

“Alaa Abd el-Fattah's 'You Have Not Yet Been Defeated' is 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. That it succeeds so brilliantly at holding the two together is perhaps the surest sign that its author – and its readers – “have not yet been defeated."”

“Alaa remains incarcerated. The injustice of his condition is condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Office, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, as well as by many other organizations. He is one of over 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt. What we have of him is this book of reflections and prison notes. It is a necessary read to understand Egypt today, but also worth reading to know Alaa. In a penetrating foreword, Naomi Klein writes, this book “must be read for the precision of its language, for its bold experimentations with form and style, and for the endlessly original ways it author finds to express disdain for tyrants … Most of all, it must be read for what Alaa has to tell us about revolutions.” Ultimately, it is a clear-eyed and moving account of one man’s courage and compassion.

“This collection gathers the Egyptian activist’s essays, social media posts and interviews, which were mostly composed while he was incarcerated as a political prisoner, and provide reflections on state violence, Egypt’s constitution and technology.”

“Though You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is mainly about Egypt, it is rooted in an internationalist vision. It highlights how, at the core, the Egyptian revolution stood for something greater than nationalist aspirations, finding universal appeal in the calls for freedom and justice for all people. The book speaks to political realities that resonate beyond the country’s borders, and is timely considering the prevalence of enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention across the region.”

blog — November 18

Announcing the March 2022 US publication of "You Have Not Yet Been Defeated: Selected Works" by Alaa Abd el-Fattah

THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF JAILED EGYPTIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH IS TO BE PUBLISHED BY SEVEN STORIES PRESS

“The text you are holding is living history.” —Naomi Klein, from the foreword

The writer and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah is arguably the most high-profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world, rising to international prominence during the revolution of 2011. An Egyptian writer, technologist, and political activist, he has been prosecuted or arrested by every Egyptian regime to rule in his lifetime and has been held in prison for all but a few months since the coup d’état of 2013. For the first time a selection of his essays, speeches, social media posts, and interviews from 2011 to the present is collected in English in You Have Not Yet Been Defeated. Together, they present not only a unique account from the front line of a decade of global upheaval, but a catalogue of ideas about other futures those upheavals could yet reveal. From theories on technology and history to profound reflections on the meaning of prison, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated (Seven Stories Press, 3/29/2022) is a book about the importance of ideas, whatever their cost.

A fiercely independent thinker who fuses politics and technology in powerful prose, an activist whose ideas represent a global generation that 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. Arrested for the first time after what came to be known as the Maspero Massacre just months after the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Alaa continues to fight for democracy and freedom of expression, and against corruption and oppression. You Have Not Yet Been Defeated has a foreword by Naomi Klein, and is translated from the Arabic by a collective of friends, family, and supporters, who also write a brief introduction to the book. The book will be published in North America on March 29, 2022, by Seven Stories Press and is currently available in the UK from Fitzcarraldo Editions.

“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 International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Featuring a foreword by Naomi Klein 

Translated by a collective

"This mosaic of texts builds a picture of both the principles of resistance and democracy-building and the ugly, absurd, frightening, occasionally joyful experience of living by them in a stubbornly unreformed dictatorship. It’s also a reckoning with the legacy of his much-loved father, the human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who was imprisoned and tortured under Anwar Sadat and Mubarak. “From my father, I inherited a prison cell and a dream,” Abd el-Fattah writes. In 2011, he is in prison for the birth of his son Khaled, just as his father missed the birth of his sister Mona; in 2014, he misses his father’s death, too… But like the success of the revolution in 2011, its defeat isn’t only an Egyptian story. The rest of us are the “you” of the book’s title, and the speech it is drawn from makes a call to understand and protect the internet as a space for “universal rights and freedoms” – to see and act against tax avoidance, policy interference, the gig economy, algorithms that promote fake news, the exploitation of our data, our reduction to passive eyeballs for advertisers. “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."

— Rachel Aspden, The Guardian

[A] damning indictment of the authoritarianism and violence of the Egyptian state... Very few of the accounts of 2011 that have emerged over the past ten years capture the emotional intensity of the moment and the tragedy of its aftermath as perceptively as Alaa does in [You Have Not Yet Been Defeated]. These essays are necessary reading for anyone who wishes to understand the last decade of Egyptian politics. Ostensibly, the collection seems to be narrowly concerned with Alaa; however, his perspective serves as a lens into contemporary political life in Egypt. As the title suggests, [You Have Not Yet Been Defeated] is an attempt to encourage us to look beyond defeat as a framework for interpreting the events of the January revolution.”

—Nihal El Aasar, Jacobin

For more information, or to arrange a review or interview with Alaa Abd el-Fattah's representatives, please contact publicity@sevenstories.com

ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH is an Egyptian writer, technologist and political activist. He has been prosecuted or arrested by every Egyptian regime to rule in his lifetime and has been held in prison for all but a few months since the coup d’état of 2013. 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.