'The Egyptians: A Radical Story' - Out Now

A book exploring Egypt's revolution and counter-revolution from below, published by Allen Lane / Penguin in the UK and The New Press in the United States

- Available now
- Egypt: 2011-17

'Truly astonishing... Belongs in the bookshelf next to George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' and John Reed's 'Ten Days That Shook the World'. This is revolutionary journalism at its finest' - See reviews, below

“Egypt’s revolutionary turmoil has been misunderstood, and a great deal of that misunderstanding has been deliberate.”

Half a decade on from the start of Egypt’s revolution, and counter-revolution, ‘The Egyptians: A Radical Story’ interrogates the country’s turmoil from below – and argues that its struggles are intimately enmeshed with global patterns of oppression and resistance which stretch well beyond Egypt’s borders.

Originally published by Allen Lane / Penguin Books and critically-acclaimed, ‘The Egyptians’ looks past the presidential palace and explores more important faultlines: the far-flung communities waging war against transnational corporations, the men and women fighting to subvert long-established gender norms, the workers dramatically seizing control of their own factories, and the cultural producers (novelists, graffiti artists and illicit bedroom DJs) appropriating public space in defiance of their repressive and violent western-backed regime.

First released in the UK on January 28th 2016, 'The Egyptians' is available now in hard copy and as an e-book from Amazon UK, Waterstones, The Hive, many other online outlets, or an ethical alternative near you! An audiobook version has been released by Audible.

The American edition of the book, entitled 'The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt's Unfinished Revolution', is published by The New Press and includes a new afterword. It is available now from Amazon US or your local bookstore.

For a statement regarding the banning of the book in Egypt by government authorities - now rescinded - please see here. An Arabic translation of the book will be published by Kotob Khan in the autumn of 2018.


Three extended extracts from the book are available on the web: 'The future of the Egyptian Revolution' in the Guardian, 'Egypt: Snapshots of a Revolution' on Medium, and an excerpt from the updated afterword at Mada Masr.


Critical praise for 'The Egyptians'



Meticulous, carefully researched and passionately argued... ‘The Egyptians’ is not just about the revolution, it is an act within it (Ahdaf Soueif, Guardian)

I started reading this and couldn't stop. It's a remarkable piece of work, and very revealing. A stirring rendition of a people's revolution as the popular forces that Shenker vividly depicts carry forward their many and varied struggles, with radical potential that extends far beyond Egypt (Noam Chomsky)

Inspirational... [Shenker's] analysis is acutely clear-sighted, given the chaos of recent events. The book mixes a hawk's eye view of the forces of global capitalism as applied to Egypt with a vivid worm's eye view of what it is like to be caught up in a revolution. This is a passionate book, but not an unbalanced one... it tells stories that need to be told, and which have been widely ignored (George Arney, Independent)

Truly astonishing... painstakingly researched, moving, engaging and engaged, the most articulate and comprehensive account of the revolution I have read to date... ‘The Egyptians’ is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how and why Egypt's revolution happened – and why it continues. (Mariam Ali, Open Democracy)

Jack Shenker pulls no punches in his examination of the post-Nasser Egyptian establishment and its venal and murderous ways... It is stirring stuff, compellingly reported and powered by a tenacious empathy for the underdog in a country where the rich have taken - in many cases plundered - almost everything from under the noses of the poor... (Justin Marozzi, Sunday Times)

This superbly written book documents the great victories - and terrible setbacks - of a people thirsting for democracy and social justice. A courageous writer who gives voice to the hopes and fears of the people of Egypt (Owen Jones)

The real story [of Egypt's revolution] is more confused and more complicated, and, as Shenker presents it in this detailed, meticulous and fascinating book, more hopeful... A historical long view is just one of the things that makes this book stand out (Anthony Sattin, Observer)

Shenker's book understands the Egyptian Spring, and the counter-strikes against it, as a deeper social process that, far from being over, will continue driving revolutionary upheaval in the years to come. He reframes political events as the products of social and technological change. And, above all, he refuses to give up hope. This is the deepest and most comprehensive account of Egypt's revolution in the English language, and it will set the agenda for debate throughout the Arab world (Paul Mason, author of PostCapitalism)

Shenker has written what amounts to a contemporary history of injustice … Shenker is a sensitive interlocutor, and the people-stories he relates comprise a stirring mise en valeur of a struggle for human dignity of unsung depth and dimension (Maria Golia, Times Literary Supplement)

‘The Egyptians’ belongs in the bookshelf next to George Orwell's ‘Homage to Catalonia’ and John Reed's ‘Ten Days That Shook the World’. This is revolutionary journalism at its finest (Simon Assaf, Socialist Review)

Jack Shenker, a reporter for the Guardian, was in Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising, as Mr Mubarak lost control of Egypt. What distinguishes his account from others is his presence in the slums, factories and homes where Egyptians first began to question their relationship with rulers who, under the pretence of economic reform, enriched only themselves and a small elite (Economist)

Well-researched and absorbing... a people's history of the revolution that avoids the drama of high politics to foreground instead the activists and campaigners who laid the foundations for Tahrir Square... A refreshing, original take on a country with an uncertain future (Sameer Rahim, Daily Telegraph)

An immensely readable, nuanced, intelligent, and thought-provoking history of the Egyptian uprising... Shenker marries a thoughtful macro-analysis of the political and socioeconomic conditions and contexts with compelling micro-portraits of people and places whose lives are irrevocably transformed by repression, resistance and revolt (Laleh Khalili, Red Pepper)

Jack Shenker cuts through the complacent clichés and self-flattering illusions of foreign correspondents and experts to produce an intimate and comprehensive portrait of contemporary Egypt, which is as historically informed as it is politically shrewd (Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire)

Essential reading for those who want to go beyond the conventional wisdom and understand the real causes of upheaval in the Arab world (Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News and author of Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution)

Shenker has written a brilliant account of the Egyptian revolution, setting it in its proper historical context and recasting it as an ongoing flame of resistance that refuses to be extinguished… If you were inspired by the Egyptian revolution and want to go deeper, this is the book to read (Phil England, New Internationalist)

A sparky and resolutely cliche-free look at the struggle for democracy in 21st century Egypt (Rachel Cooke, Best nonfiction for 2016 – Observer)

Shenker’s book is the definitive account of the 2011 Egyptian uprising to date. Many scholars and journalists have taken as their point of departure the notion that the uprising was a one-off democratizing experiment that failed. With his on-the-ground reporting, Shenker offers a compelling alternative view of a historical process—a revolution—that is still unfolding. The Egyptians weaves the voices of ordinary people into an analysis of social movements and crumbling governance as vampire-like capitalism sinks its fangs into the largest Arab society… It seems absurd that Shenker’s book should stand out for taking ordinary Egyptians seriously, given the shelves of volumes on the uprising, but it does… Academic researchers have produced solid work on Egyptian elections, labor mobilization, the Kifaya movement, Muslim-Coptic relations, women’s rights, neoliberal economic reforms and elite political machinations, among other topics. All tell important parts of the story. The brilliance of Shenker’s book, however, is to blend all these parts into one (Joshua Stacher, Middle East Report)

Incredible research and insights... It's a beautiful, radical book. I loved it (Fatima Bhutto)

Shenker, former Egypt correspondent for The Guardian, is at his finest... ['The Egyptians'] offers a grounded analysis of how a revolution was engendered in politically claustrophobic conditions. This book has a cinematic quality in how it pans in and out of historical tracts, marrying them to recent events with skilful nudging of dispatches from one chapter to the next (Farid Farid, The Australian)

Riveting and elegantly written... an immense and humane portrait of the trials and aspirations of the Egyptian people (Gerald Butt, Literary Review)

The aftermath of Mubarak’s ouster was then just a simple story of the military against the Islamists. Jack Shenker does a great service by challenging this narrative in the most profound way in an elegantly phrased tome that explains Egypt’s journey not over the last five years but over the last 50 or more. He demonstrates the extraordinary extent to which this was never a Mubarak-only problem and that indeed, perhaps most challenging of all, the international community as a whole must bear a large responsibility... More than anything this is a work that should be required reading for all those western leaders who so quickly dropped their temporary revolutionary rhetoric and betrayed Tahrir square (Chris Doyle, Middle East Eye)

A great writer, Shenker’s account of the Egyptian revolution and its betrayal is perceptive, nuanced and hard-hitting. It’s a welcome break from the revolutionary tourism that has so often passed as left analysis of the Arab revolts. Shenker understands the everyday struggles of Egyptians as the cutting edge of the global struggle to extend democracy from electoral systems to every aspect of our lives (Jon Soske, Africa is a Country)

A sweeping look at the long trajectory of popular mobilization, local battles and political conflict, transcending the travails of the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution and the July 3, 2013, military coup. [Shenker’s] deeply sympathetic look at the long struggles of ordinary Egyptians, outside of the spotlight of Cairo’s activist class, gives substance to the view that the military coup cannot long suppress the restless energy of Egyptians (Marc Lynch, Washington Post)

Through a series of compelling and often moving stories, Shenker develops a portrait of Egypt from below which shows that the spirit of insurgency long predates the Arab Spring and still lives on in powerful ways… This is a fascinating, wonderful book about events of profound significance for our world. It cannot be recommended highly enough (Ed Lewis, Ninety Nine)

A sharp jab at the neoliberal economics adopted by Egypt over the last decades, which ultimately spurred grass-roots revolt… Shenker skilfully breaks it all down, showing how the move toward privatization created a highly centralized, undemocratic system of governance aided by the global financial community, offering little accountability and allowing a few "nepotistic clusters" to get rich while leaving the rest struggling and impoverished—conditions ripe for revolution. Yet the military now rules again in Egypt and has driven the revolution underground and invisible—or so it would seem. Shenker provocatively explores ways and places ("tenuous little zones") where the ancien regime has no more legitimacy and where cracks of resistance grow larger—e.g., villages demanding self-mastery, women pushing back against sexual violence, laborers striking for fair wages, graffiti artists and emerging writers working against the state, and, overall, a bold refusal to give in to fear of the state police. A troubling yet highly engaging catch-up on the state of incomplete revolution in Egypt (Kirkus, Starred Review)

Shenker’s book relates big ideas to dozens of intimate stories about Egypt and its people... his passion, energy and journalistic acumen are remarkable (Jon Wright, Geographical)

Jack Shenker has accomplished something extraordinary. He's written the book about the Egyptian revolution that so many on the left were waiting for; and even more, a book of love and reckoning... Grounded in deep research, history, and class war, Shenker's book is unsentimental and unsparing, beautiful and heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful, and above all, real (Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood)



[The following is an edited extract from the book’s prologue]

“Egypt’s revolutionary turmoil has been misunderstood, and a great deal of that misunderstanding has been deliberate. A process that began on January 25th, 2011, and which will continue yet for many more years to come, has been framed deceptively by elites both within Egypt and beyond. The aim of this deception has been to sanitise the revolution and divest it of its radical potential.

The revolution, and counter-revolution, has never just been about Mubarak, or his successors, or elections. It is not merely a civil war between Islamists and secularists, nor a fight between oriental backwardness and western liberal modernity, nor an ‘event’ that can be fixed and constrained in place or time. In reality, the past half-decade’s unrest is about marginalized citizens muscling their way on to the political stage and practicing collective sovereignty over domains that were previously closed to them. The national presidency is one such domain, but there are many others: factories, fields and urban streets, the mineral resources that lie under the desert sand and beneath the seabed, the houses people live in, the food they eat and the water they drink.

These struggles cannot be isolated; they are intimately entwined with forms of exclusion and resistance which impact upon and implicate us all. The political momentum which accompanied the anti-Mubarak uprising five years ago has been violently stalled, but the underlying faultlines which animated it remain urgent and unresolved. These faultlines stretch across many borders. Therein lies the revolution’s threat, and its living, giddying possibilities.”