The book was published on January 20, timed to the
anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution in Tahrir Square (Jan 25, 2011).
An award-winning journalist tells the inside story of the 2011 Egyptian revolution by following two courageous and pivotal leaders—and their imperfect decisions that changed the world.
In January 2011, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a group of strangers sparked a revolution. Basem, an apolitical middle-class architect, jeopardized the lives of his family when he seized the chance to improve his country. Moaz, a contrarian Muslim Brother, defied his own organization to join the opposition.
These revolutionaries had little more than their idealism with which to battle the secret police, the old oligarchs, and a power-hungry military determined to keep control. Basem was determined to change the system from within and became one of the only revolutionaries to win a seat in parliament. Moaz took a different course, convinced that only street pressure from youth movements could dismantle the old order.
Thanassis Cambanis tells the story of the noble dreamers who brought Egypt to the brink of freedom, and the dark powerful forces that—for the time being—stopped them short. But he also tells a universal story of inspirational people willing to transform themselves in order to transform their society…and the world.
“Smart, troubling study of the events surrounding Tahrir Square and their aftermath… A clear exposition and analysis of complex, swiftly changing events. The book gives readers cause to understand why we might support regime change in the Middle East, even if it brings instability and incoherence.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Once Upon a Revolution is a beautifully written, deeply reported and thrilling book. Thanassis Cambanis has remarkable access to the men and women at the heart of the most important revolution of our times and he uses that access to tell a story that is both compulsively readable and essential to anyone trying to understand people and politics of the modern Middle East."
— Matthew McAllester, author of Beyond the Mountains of the Damned
“The characters Cambanis renders in Once Upon A Revolution are irresistible; you will cheer for them, cry with them, and feel the weight of their task as they bring down a dictator only to face the harder challenge of re-inventing Egypt. Cambanis tells no fairy tales, but grim reality is tempered by the compassion, humor, and hope of the young people in the square.”
— Quil Lawrence, NPR News correspondent and former Baghdad Bureau Chief
"Cambanis has achieved something altogether remarkable here. Through tracking the thoughts and actions of two rivals in the Egyptian revolutionary movement, complemented by his own acute on-the-street observations, he has produced an account of the rise and fall of the Egyptian Revolution that is at once gripping, illuminating and wise. Once Upon a Revolution is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the political and religious crosscurrents currently roiling the Middle East, or who wishes to gain an insight into where the region might be headed next. It is also that rarest of ‘compulsory’ books: one that is a pleasure to read."
— Scott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East
“In Once Upon a Revolution, Thanassis Cambanis draws on a decade of reporting in the Middle East to produce a kaleidoscopic narrative of ‘the revolution that for an instant felt like it might transform the world.’ Through the intertwining tales of two very different revolutionaries, Basem and Moaz, Cambanis conveys the profound moment of hope that existed in Tahrir Square—and the tumult and tragedy that followed. Gripping, vivid, compassionate, and often funny, Cambanis's book captures the political drama and human folly of these historic events in Egypt.”
— Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter and The Snakehead
“The Egyptian uprising of 2011 was packed with principled struggles and craven opportunism, unexpected triumphs and horrifying reversals. Cambanis works to guide us through this thicket with intense on-the-ground reporting. His readers will understand why Egypt’s would-be revolutionaries made the choices—and the mistakes—they did.”
— Nathan J. Brown, author of When Victory Is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics and professor of political science at George Washington University