From Egypt's most popular novelist - an absorbing, exuberant and powerfully moving story of a family swept up by social unrest in post-World War II Cairo.
Abd el-Aziz Gaafar, formerly a well-respected landowner now in the grip of penury, moved his family to Cairo and took on menial work at the Automobile Club - a place of refuge and luxury for its European members, a place where Egyptians may appear only as servants. Alku, the lifelong Nubian servant of Egypt's corrupt king, runs the show in all but name. The servants, a squabbling, humorous, and deeply human group, live in a perpetual state of fear: beaten for their mistakes, their wages dependent on Alku's whims. When Abd el-Aziz's pride gets the better of him and he stands up for himself, his death - as much from shame as from his injuries after Alku has him beaten - leaves his widow further impoverished, and two of his sons obliged to work in the Club. As the family is drawn into the turbulent politics - public and private - both servants and masters are subsumed by Egypt's social upheaval. Soon the Egyptians of the Automobile Club face a stark choice: to live safely but without dignity as servants, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.
'Al Aswany is a world writer, making Egyptian concerns into human ones and beautifully illuminating our always extraordinary and sometimes sad and baffling world.' The Times (London)