Every day, the queue gets longer. More and more people need documents: proof of citizenship, exemptions, permissions, documents with forms to get the other documents for the other forms. So they come to the Gate, and wait.
They wait in line, all day, every day. A whole industry springs up around the queuers; tea bars, microbus and mobile phone services, even a prayer meeting…
Still, the Gate never opens.
But the only source of justice and redress is behind it.
People give up their jobs to keep their place in the queue. They make friends there, and enemies. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. The only newspaper, The Truth, doesn’t really help clarify the difference. If anything, it muddies the waters further.
One man is queuing to get a permit to get a bullet removed from his gut. But the government says there was no bullet in the first place. After a while, his medical records seem to agree. Someone is updating his files with disturbing regularity…
Will he get the operation to save his life? Will his doctor feel free to help him or not?
With The Queue, Basma Abdel Aziz has created a chilling blend of dystopia and reality. As an Egyptian psychiatrist and journalist, she knows what she’s talking about. It is both refreshing and vital to have a woman’s voice describing the political and social realities of this region – instead of yet another media image of a silent veiled woman looking like she’s suffering.
Aziz’s translator, Elisabeth Jacquette, also lived in Cairo for years. Together they have created a gripping story of the ‘boiling frog’ syndrome – slowly, slowly, what should be utterly unacceptable becomes normal, paralysing, until you just don’t know anymore what’s really happening – let alone what you can still do about it.