The Queue

Translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, 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 for even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the building never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer and longer.

Citizens from all walks of life wait in the sun: a revolutionary journalist, a sheikh, the cousin of a security officer killed in the clashes with protestors, and a man with injuries The Gate would prefer to keep quiet.

A very real vision of life after the Arab Spring written with dark, subtle intelligence, 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.

BASMA ABDEL AZIZ is an Egyptian writer, psychiatrist, and visual artist. Early on, she earned the nickname ‘the rebel’ for her indefatigable struggle against injustice, torture, and corruption. A weekly columnist for Egypt’s al-Shorouk newspaper, she represents a fresh and necessary female voice in Arabic journalism and fiction. She is the winner of the Sawiris Cultural Award, the General Organisation for Cultural Palaces award, and the Ahmed Bahaa-Eddin Award. She lives in Cairo.

ELISABETH JAQUETTE is a translator from the Arabic. Her work has been published in the Guardian, Words Without Borders, and Asymptote, among other places. She lived in Cairo from 2007-2013.

“An effective critique of authoritarianism…People…will always find a way to control other people in one way or another, should it suit them. Perhaps with the publication of The Queue, the lesson will begin to finally sink in.” —NPR

“Full of mysterious and troubling detail…Abdel Aziz delivers a striking portrait of an authority that claims all power while rejecting all responsibility, that forces people to hear and speak untruths and to embrace their own oppression.” —The Nation

“Abdel Aziz’s work draws on a rich lineage of Egyptian literary styles… She probes the gulf between official rhetoric and the stubborn inconvenience of real events, and delights in the convoluted absurdities that derive from them… The Queue shows us that resistance comes in many forms.” —London Review of Books

“Basma Abdel Aziz’s novel is not simply an exegesis on the state of her homeland, but a much more universal evocation of the relationships between hegemonic power and grassroots dissent. It feels both fitting and faintly tragic that she had to resort to the literature of dark fantasy to convey it.” —Toronto Globe and Mail

“Although this is a novel, if you follow events in today’s Egypt, it’s not far from the truth. A brave effort.” —New York Post

“Abdel Aziz illustrates how life in an authoritarian state is normalized not just by the government, but by the people.” —ThinkProgress

“Offers a window into how the revolution failed…underlining, above all, the solidarities and divisions oppression creates, even as it allows for the stories of people who are otherwise often overlooked to be told…[The Queue] points to the errors in thinking that make change impossible.” —Music & Literature

“Equal parts dystopia, satire, and allegory…A distinctly Egyptian version of its Orwellian counterpart, much more real and all the more absurd for it…The nature of truth, its official invocations, its power and its danger, lies at the heart of this work.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“[A] trenchant political fantasy…Mahfouz meets Orwell, with a particularly interesting look at the lives of Egyptian women from a variety of class backgrounds.” —The Forward

“One of the most exciting post-Revolution novels written in Egypt.” —The New Inquiry

“[Abdel Aziz] brings her careful observations of power, pain and Egyptian society to a remarkable debut.”—Qantara

“Insightful, multilayered.”—

“The sense of total repression that people feel from authoritative states is chillingly detailed…It seems hugely significant…that it’s a woman who has written this book, dared to point her finger in the eyes of authority in spite of what…are very genuine threats to her own well-being.” —Counterpunch

The Queue is the world we live in without letting ourselves to know it…the most chilling aspect of this novel is how normal it all feels…” —Okayafrica

“[Abdel Aziz’s] characters are multi-faceted…The sense of Egypt wafts through the pages with mint tea, cafes, heat and vivacious personalities.”—Arab News

“A surreal version of modern-day Egypt.” —Kirkus

“An arresting portrayal of totalitarian control.” —Library Journal

“Captures a sense of futility and meaninglessness…Aziz ultimately suggests the worst while leaving the smallest space for hopeful interpretation, a fitting metaphor for Egypt after the Arab Spring.” —Publishers Weekly

“Weird and wild…a Kafkaesque tale of a modern Egypt.” —BookRiot

“Abdel Aziz has taken the reality of Egypt’s oppressive security apparatus and its impact on people’s lives and distilled it into a chilling Orwellian/Kafkaesque/Murakamian horror story…We need more novels like this.” —Speculative Fiction in Translation

The Queue…show[s] how an individual might use the prevailing narratives of religion and power around her to reconstruct a world that also aligns with a personal conscience.” —Image Journal

“Timely.” —SF Signal

“The discomfiting parallels to conditions in, especially, contemporary Egypt add a sense of urgency to the novel. A well-told—and effectively unsettling—story.”—The Complete Review

“Abdel Aziz is redefining Arabic women’s literature.” —Essam Zakaria, El-Fagr

“[The Queue] moves between dystopia and reality—or a world that seems like reality. With her first novel, Abdel Aziz has clarly secured an important position on the map of contemporary literature in the Arab world.” —Al-Mogaz

“Abdel Aziz creates a world parallel to the one in which we live, one where the characters reveal to us the nature of human beings and the choices they make in life.” —Al-Itihad