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"The Queue ... has drawn comparisons to Western classics like George Orwell’s 1984 and The Trial by Franz Kafka. It represents a new wave of dystopian and surrealist fiction from Middle Eastern writers who are grappling with the chaotic aftermath and stinging disappointments of the Arab Spring." -- The New York Times
Winner of the English PEN Translation Award
In a surreal, but familiar, vision of modern day Egypt, a centralized authority known as ‘the Gate’ has risen to power in the aftermath of the ‘Disgraceful Events,’ a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate in order to take care of even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the Gate never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer.
Citizens from all walks of life mix and wait in the sun: a revolutionary journalist, a sheikh, a poor woman concerned for her daughter’s health, and even the brother of a security officer killed in clashes with protestors. Among them is Yehia, a man who was shot during the Events and is waiting for permission from the Gate to remove a bullet that remains lodged in his pelvis. Yehia’s health steadily declines, yet at every turn, officials refuse to assist him, actively denying the very existence of the bullet.
Ultimately it is Tarek, the principled doctor tending to Yehia’s case, who must decide whether to follow protocol as he has always done, or to disobey the law and risk his career to operate on Yehia and save his life.
Written with dark, subtle humor, The Queue describes the sinister nature of authoritarianism, and illuminates the way that absolute authority manipulates information, mobilizes others in service to it, and fails to uphold the rights of even those faithful to it.
he hadn’t made that valiant decision—a valiant stupidity, he admitted at times—to resign from his position at the university, where students often missed classes and didn’t ask much of the lecturers, he would have presented her to his advanced students. He would have asked them to conduct a study on the philosophy of time, space, and physical existence, and then write a short paper inspired by her: the Lady with the Mask. THE GATE’S ANNOUNCEMENT For as long as they could remember, the
dropped and his eyelids began to close, and then he impulsively turned the paper over, buried his head in his arms, and fell asleep. ZEPHYR HOSPITAL Amani woke up early. She picked out a plain pair of jeans and a jacket that wouldn’t draw attention, but she was also careful not to look as if she were poor or in a precarious situation. Public officials had a distaste for serving people poor like themselves, even in a hospital like Zephyr, where things should have been different. Standing before
walked over to the Investigations and Instructions Desk and showed them his ID card, but after standing in front of the official for what seemed like an age, he became obviously exasperated with the conversation. Amani began to worry, and her heart beat faster when she saw Ehab tussle with the man and the other officials behind the counter. She watched several guards rush over, shouting at Ehab, and they didn’t lead him away so much as carry him by his hands and feet to the hospital door before
office within the next few days, the man said, it might save him time to pay Yehya a visit himself. When Nagy arrived she looked around wildly and pleaded with him to keep Yehya from visiting her, to keep him from coming to the office at all, or anywhere else, even to her apartment. The queue was safer, she thought; at least no one had disappeared there without returning, eventually. She still hadn’t uttered a word about those terrible days, which had come rushing back to her at the sight of the
years earlier, and her brothers lived in the outlying districts. She graduated from law school with honors and appeared to have met Yehya during her time at university. They had grown closer during those years, and worked at the same company after graduation; she took a position in the telephone sales department and had never put her law degree to use. Tarek learned from the report that she was in constant contact with Yehya, she accompanied him nearly everywhere except to the Gate. He also read