The Queue (Paperback)

Staff Pick Logo
The Queue Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days

Staff Reviews

Basma Abdel Aziz's background as psychiatrist working with torture victims at the Nadeem center in Egypt gives her a deep insight into the effects of torture and oppression on human beings and the culture at large. (The Nadeem center, incidentally, which was recently raided by the Sisi government in Egypt.)

The book opens in an unspecified Middle Eastern country after an uprising referred to only as "the Disgraceful Events" has been violently put down by the government. A building with a large gate is erected. The Gate will provide the necessary paperwork and approval for all, procedures or summons. The only problem is that the Gate never opens. A line forms the length of several city blocks. One of the main characters, Yehya, must wait in line to get authorization to have a bullet removed from his side -- a bullet that is not supposed to exist, as the government denies that any shots were fired during the disgraceful events.

Basma captures something in these characters that is often overlooked by others tackling similar subjects: the quality of waiting. Waiting for things to "return to normal," amidst confusion, violence, and the absurdity of a bureaucratic system attempting to create the idea of a normal way of life that will in all probability never come. 

Carmen Maria Machado, a reviewer for NPR said, "The Queue is the newest in this genre of totalitarian absurdity: helpless citizens — some hopeful, some hopeless — struggling against an opaque, sinister government."

The Queue represents the best in resistance writing. Both subtle and filled with wry humor this book will undoubtedly become a modern classic.— Terry S.

— From June 2016


"The Queue ... has drawn comparisons to Western classics like George Orwell's 1984 and The Trial by Franz Kafka. It represents a new wave of dystopian and surrealist fiction from Middle Eastern writers who are grappling with the chaotic aftermath and stinging disappointments of the Arab Spring." -- The New York Times

Winner of the English PEN Translation Award

In a surreal, but familiar, vision of modern day Egypt, 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 in order to take care of even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the Gate never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer.

Citizens from all walks of life mix and wait in the sun: a revolutionary journalist, a sheikh, a poor woman concerned for her daughter's health, and even the brother of a security officer killed in clashes with protestors. Among them is Yehia, a man who was shot during the Events and is waiting for permission from the Gate to remove a bullet that remains lodged in his pelvis. Yehia's health steadily declines, yet at every turn, officials refuse to assist him, actively denying the very existence of the bullet.

Ultimately it is Tarek, the principled doctor tending to Yehia's case, who must decide whether to follow protocol as he has always done, or to disobey the law and risk his career to operate on Yehia and save his life.

Written with dark, subtle humor, 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.

About the Author

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.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781612195162
ISBN-10: 1612195164
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Pages: 224
Language: English