The Automobile Club of Egypt

The Automobile Club of Egypt

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A rollicking, exuberant and powerfully moving story of a family swept up by social unrest in post-World War II Cairo.

Once a respected landowner, Abd el-Aziz Gaafar fell into penury and moved his family to Cairo, where he was forced into menial work at the Automobile Club - a refuge of colonial luxury for its European members.

There, Alku, the lifelong Nubian retainer of Egypt's corrupt and dissolute king, lords it over the staff, a squabbling but tight-knit group, who live in perpetual fear, as they are thrashed for their mistakes, their wages dependent on Alku's whims. When, one day, Abd el-Aziz stands up for himself, he is beaten.

Soon afterwards, he dies, as much from shame as from his injuries. Leaving his widow and four children further impoverished. The family's loss propels them down different paths but they remain tightly connected to the Automobile Club.

It is at the Club, too that dangerous politics find the favour and patronage of the king's seditious cousin and unlikely revolutionary plotter-cum-bon vivant. Soon, both servants and masters will be subsumed by the brewing social upheaval.

And the Egyptians of the Automobile Club will face a stark choice - to live safely, but without dignity, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.

Full of absorbing incident, and marvellously drawn characters, The Automobile Club of Egypt gives us Egypt on the brink of changes that resonate to this day.

It is an irresistible confirmation of Al Aswany's reputation as one of the world's most beguiling storytellers and insightful interpreters of the human spirit.