x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Taxi: The book that predicted the Egyptian revolution

Khaled Alkhmissi's novel is made up of 58 fictional encounters with taxi drivers in Cairo, each one providing an episodic snapshot of a nation full of contradiction and ill at ease.

First published in 2008 and now reissued by Bloomsbury Qatar, Khaled AlKhamissi's Taxi is regarded by France 24 news as "the novel that predicted the uprising" in Egypt.

The author's narrative is made up of 58 fictional encounters with taxi drivers in Cairo, each one providing an episodic snapshot of a nation full of contradiction and ill at ease.

For those unwilling to look up the figures of history these pages rake up, Jonathan Wright's faithful translation has been embellished in this edition with footnotes providing details of the rich cast of characters that have populated Egypt's recent past, although some of these addenda seem superfluous.

But do these journeys foretell the Arab Spring? Yes and no. There is no overwhelming inevitably in these pages, except that Egypt appears in crisis. But then, it could be characterised as a nation in perpetual crisis. Equally, at each turn there are warnings of this year's tumultuous events - dissatisfied grumbles here, the seeds of discontent there, the lessons of the past willfully and deliberately unlearnt. For that alone it is worth the ride.