It’s publication day for Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, translated into fluid, persuasive English by Elisabeth Jaquette, and published by Melville House Press:
5) This book will be on prize longlists next year. You can already find it mentioned by readers at places as distinct as BookRiot and Men’s Journal.
4) Although Abdel Aziz published Al-Taboor (The Queue) in 2013, it is even more relevant today. It is a fantastic dystopia, but, like Nihad Sirees’s The Silence and the Roar, it’s also a very real-world portrait of contemporary Egypt.
When translator Elisabeth Jaquette reviewed the novel for Mada Masr in 2013, she called it “both a chilling parallel to the present and a bleak vision of a possible future.” In many ways, that future has come. Also: My review on Qantara.
3) It’s also an insightful, multilayered dig into the whys of authoritarianism. If you live in any country with an authoritarian-leaning demographic (cough, cough), then it’s an instruction manual. From the NPR Books review:
And from a previous talk between Abdel Aziz and ArabLit’s Rachael Daum:
In all my writing I try to destroy different faces of dictatorship and of totalitarian authority, whether political, social or religious.
2) The examinations of pain, about which Abdel Aziz presumably knows a great deal, as a professional psychiatrist working with torture victims. But the narrative doesn’t sympathize only with the patient, but also with the conflicted doctor, who wants to operate, but also doesn’t want to run afoul of the law. Here, Dr. Tarek has a run-in with authorities, from an excerpt of the novel that ran on Words Without Borders:
1) The most sympathetic, detailed mini-portraits of the lives of contemporary Egyptian women — from a range of different class backgrounds — that you’ll find, perhaps, anywhere. Perhaps that’s why Men’s Journal listed it atop its “8 Best Books of May.” Who knows?
Also, if you’re in NYC:
Basma Abdel Aziz just arrived in your city. Tomorrow, May 25, Abdel Aziz, she’ll be in conversation with Yasmine El Rashidi, also a fantastically talented writer whose debut novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, will be published in June. Event starts at 6:30 p.m. More details here.
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