Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns: Tweets from Tahrir
Alex Nunns and Nadia Idle
This is not by any means a coffee-table book. The idea is a novel one, and it’s both a creative and obvious way to document the January 25th revolution. The tweets mentioned are only a small fraction of the tweets that held, carried and pushed through the revolution. The book features only English tweets, is Cairo-centric and inevitably pays more attention to some Twitter accounts than others. Tweets from Tahrir tells one story and one narrative, and doesn’t apologise for it.
What Tweets from Tahrir also gives is a very strange retrospective window into the reactions and perceptions of the public during the revolution. Some of the tweets seem over the top, and they may well be for an outsider looking in. Still, this makes the included chapter introductions that more constructive in grounding the real-time tweets in what actually turns out to be a very relatable framework of storytelling.
At times the book does get bogged down in the whole 140-character Twitter spectacle, and maybe pays it more mind than it’s worth. Twitter was merely a tool, and that’s an important point that the editors Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns make in their introduction. There’s a critical point made in the book’s preface too about the fleeting nature of social media. As instant and direct as it is, these interactions are invariably doomed to disappear into a virtual abyss, never to be seen again. Tweets from Tahrir has taken a fraction of the outpour and immortalised them; a task that is nothing short of remarkable.
Ahdaf Soueif’s foreword is worth purchasing the book alone. There’s a mystique and a charm about Soueif that never fail to come across in her writing. Her foreword, as well as the editors’ introduction, and each chapter’s introduction put the tweets in context, and structure them into a gripping testimonial. Idle and Nunn have succeeded in creating an absorbing tale that stays true to the events of January 25th and pays tribute to the real drama, challenges and triumphs of a momentous time in Egypt’s history.
Don’t expect this to be the deepest of reads or the heaviest of analyses; it is after all a collection of tweets. They’re the musings, thoughts and counsel of a part of the revolution; a small salute to all those who contributed, even in the smallest of ways.