Bloomsbury Qatar, £7.99 (179pp) £7.59 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Taxi, By Khaled Al-Khamissi
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 30 September 2011
Bloomsbury Qatar's enterprising list of Arabic fiction brings a welcome new spin for this effervescent and free-spirited convoy of Egyptian stories: a huge hit on publication in 2006.
In 58 short sections, Al-Khamissi introduces us to the lives, hopes, fears and (above all) the deliciously rendered voices of Cairo's cabbies.
Jonathan Wright's translation catches their raucous, ribald, but also tender and melancholic, drift. Money, love, family, politics, and the sheer surreal mayhem of the daily grind under Mubarak's regime, drive this invigorating panorama of a city, and a country, stuck in an endless tailback.
Prior to Egypt's revolution, Taxi would have told you more than a thousand Twitter feeds about what was coming down the road beside the Nile.
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