An extremely important guest in this year’s edition of the Malta Book Festival is no doubt Basma Abdel Aziz, the author of the acclaimed novel The Queue. A resident of Cairo, where she was born in 1976, Basma, who possesses a Master’s degree in Neuropsychiatry from Ein Shams University, is a member of El Nadeem Centre For the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and a member of the Egyptian Women Writers’ Association. She is also a human rights activist and has written extensivley on the subjects of free elections, the right to physical integrity and safety, and the independence of public educational entities.
The Queue explores the scenario of the aftermath of a failed revolution in an undefined Arab country. The narrative unfolds around the ‘queue’ – an endless line of civilians waiting to petition an impersonal administrative entity called The Gate for basic services. The ‘gate’ is a powerful symbol for Arab readers who will associate it immediately with ‘La Porte’, the gates of the administrative wing of the Sultan’s Topkapi palace in Istanbul, the focus of Ottoman power which dominated the Arab peoples for more than 4 centuries and a symbol of distant and faceless administration.
Drawing comparisons to classics of dystopian literature such as The Trial by Franz Kafka and Blindness by Jose Saramago, the novel is highly representative of the new wave of Middle Eastern writers who try to come to terms with the social and political vacuum, the disappointing and chaotic aftermath of the Arab Uprisings of 2011.
Basma will be appearing twice during the festival – as a guest speaker at the conference ‘Literature and Totalitarianism’, which will open the festival on Wednesday 9th November and at an event in her honour the day after, on Thursday 10th. In the latter event, she will be talking to Maltese-Palestinian writer Walid Nahban about her work and her life. There will also be selected readings from The Queue.
For more info about the Festival five-day cultural programme of events: