From Publishers Weekly
This sumptuous fable from Egyptian novelist Megid, winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz award, is more a combination of interconnected stories than a single narrative, but its characters are united in their yearning for the "distant train"—at once real and metaphorical. The idle inhabitants of a remote train station settlement in Egypt's western desert wait desperately for a train to arrive. Imbued with magical, and quasi-messianic qualities, as well as the promise of jobs, the train vexes in its absence—flaming balls fly through doorways; an enchanted golden sea bass jumps from the air; Zeidan, a village elder, is seduced by a jinn (genie, evocative of Arabian Nights); Suad, a young widow, bares her bosom, inspiring men to madness and murder. Desperate for truth and restitution, many flee. Two brothers, Hamed and Gaber, trek to distant Arabia: not for Mecca, but for oil riches—a path that leads toward cannibalism and death. Ali, 14, heads to the city in search of the train—unsuccessful, he finds depravity and corruption, as well as Samira and Zeinab, two other runaways, now sex workers. Megid's prose is lush, and possesses with Marquezesque charm, and the novel's final message is hopeful: life must be seized, and cherished; salvation, whatever its form, will not come on its own. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ibrahim Abdel Megid is one of the most prolific writers of Egypt's post-Naguib Mahfouz group. His awards include the Naguib Mahfouz Award and the Cairo International Book Fair Award. He has lectured on Middle Eastern fiction and culture in America and abroad. Hosam Aboul-Ela is an assistant professor of English at the University of Houston. This is his second Arabic literary translation.