Always well-known for his outspoken political opinions and daring literature, Alaa El Aswany is, paradoxically, more controversial than ever after Egypt’s January 25th revolution.

It is fitting, then, that his first collection of columns in English translation, On the State of Egypt, was published just before the onset of political unrest. The volume was re-launched post-revolution with an introduction written from Tahrir Square.

A collection of columns published by El Aswany in El Shorouk and El Dostour newspapers between 2005 and 2010, On the State of Egypt provides an insightful look at some of Egypt’s political and social problems, some of which remain relevant even after February 11th as Egypt moves into a new era of rapid change.

Although intended for an international audience, the columns in this collection contain insights valuable to everyone’s understanding of Egypt’s political life under Mubarak, and in retrospect, shed a considerable amount of light on the factors that underpinned the January 25th revolution.

In his columns expertly translated by Jonathan Wright, El Aswany covers current events and issues which he sees as crucial for Egypt’s progress. At the end of each article, whether the subject was the poor state of government healthcare, the negative influence of Wahabi Islam or Islamophobia in Europe; El Aswany’s conclusion is the same: 'Democracy is the solution.'

In his discussions of religion in particular, El Aswany comes to logical conclusions providing much needed clarity to common conceptions about the dynamics of faith in Egypt, particularly for international readers. His writing style is heavy on entertaining anecdotes and straight to the point, making each article an easy read and an explosion of insight.

El Aswany’s forceful, clear and highly logical arguments are a political education in and of themselves, and for this reason alone, On the State of Egypt is worth reading. El Aswany manages to put forth his perspective on contentious issues in a way that leaves the reader convinced and enlightened on the topic at hand, however much they thought they knew before.

The publication of El Aswany’s political writings in English translation is a landmark event, and one that clearly reveals how much non-Arabic readers interested in Egyptian politics were missing out on all these years. Readers without a taste for politics could still benefit from Aswany’s insightful commentary on Egypt’s social problems and western perceptions of the Arab world.

Even those who have enjoyed Aswany’s writings in Arabic have something to gain from On the State of Egypt – this book is hopefully just the beginning of a new era of unrestricted political writing, which will promote a more nuanced understanding of Egypt’s past, present and ongoing challenges as it faces the difficult transition to democracy.