Nominated by:

Los Angeles Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Alfred A. Knopf, USA

The Automobile Club of Egypt

Alaa Al Aswany    

Translated from the original Arabic by Russell Harris

 2017 Longlist

In British-occupied Egypt, on the eve of the 1952 revolution, respected landowner Abd el-Aziz Gaafar has fallen on hard times. Bankrupt, he moves his family to Cairo and takes a menial job at the Automobile Club, a luxurious lodge for its European members, where Egyptians appear only as fearful servants. When Abd el-Aziz’s pride gets the better of him and he stands up for himself, he is subjected to a corporal punishment that ultimately kills him—leaving two of his sons obliged to work in the Club.
As the nation teeters on the brink of change, both servants and masters are subsumed by social upheaval, and the Egyptians of the Automobile Club face a choice: to live safely but without dignity as servants, or to risk everything and fight for their rights. Exuberant and powerfully moving, The Automobile Club of Egypt is an essential work of social criticism from one of the Arab world’s greatest literary voices.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Alaa Al Aswany is the author of The Yacoubian Building, which was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2006 and was the best-selling novel in the Arab world for more than five years; Chicago, named by Newsday as the best translated novel of 2006; and the story collection Friendly Fire. He has received numerous awards internationally, including the Bashrahil Prize, the Kavafis Award and the Premio Grinzane Cavour. He was recently named by the London Times as one of the best fifty authors to have been translated into English over the last fifty years.

Librarian’s Comments

Post-World War 2 Cairo is the setting for murmurings of political change and upheaval. The author writes about a once prosperous landowner whose life has taken a turn for the worse. He finds work as a servant at the Automobile Club, which was the private reserve of former colonials. This 1950s political/social/economic setting is a portent of future dissatisfaction and unrest.

Related Entries