Review: Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi
Author: Al Khamissi, Khaled
Translator: Wright, Jonathan
Length: 192 pages
Publisher / Year: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation / 2011 originally published in Arabic in 2006
Source: Borrowed from Carina
Why I Read It: I was running out of reading material so had to read hers as well
Date Read: 04/04/12
This has been described as a book that predicted the Egyptian revolution and I’d have to agree that in many ways it really does. In this collection of 58 fictional monologues or discussions between the main character and various taxi drivers in Egypt, written in 2005, we get an idea of what life was like for ordinary citizens in Cairo. All of the stories are incredible and engaging. As an example, on page 32 we hear a rant about the evils of women, and the main character muses that “Every age has its people who hope that the Day of Resurrection is nigh, to bring them justice against tyranny and oppression.”
Much of the stories have this kind of attitude. That things are bad and that there must be a solution, but that they don’t know what it is. Perhaps resurrection is coming, or perhaps there is no hope, but either way the current situation is terrible. They complain about bribery and corruption, about the police force, about the changing rules and regulations, about the pointlessness of voting, about the political and economic situation. We get varying opinions and view that sometimes agree, sometimes conflict, but always present new and interesting takes on situations. At the same time we get a good education and grounding on life in Cairo.
Another story I really enjoyed was one in which a driver discusses how Egypt, and other countries, should use the rhetoric of the United States against it. That other countries should monitor their elections to ensure the proper functioning of democracy, especially after all the talk of fraud in the 2004 elections. That they should talk about how they must use force if necessary to protect Cuba, they should invade to control the weapons of mass destruction, and so on. This was a great section that I think would make any US reader think about the ways in which they still control much of the global monitoring despite their own issues that also need to be addressed.
A really interesting and varied collection that was a joy to read. I look forward to more by this author.