First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Inside the walls of the Automobile Club of Egypt two very different worlds collide – Cairo’s European elite and the Egyptian staff who wait on them.
The servants, a squabbling, humorous and lively group, live in a perpetual state of fear under the tyrannical rule of Alku. When Abd el-Aziz Gaafar becomes the target of Alku’s cruelty and his pride gets the better of him, a devastating act sends ripples through his family. Soon, the Gaafars are drawn into the turbulent politics of the club – public and private – and both servants and masters are subsumed by Egypt’s social upheaval.
Egyptians both inside and outside the Automobile Club will face a stark choice: to live safely but without dignity, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.
Yes, for the third book in a row, I am immersing in a book written by an African author. After Nigerian authors Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer and Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities, I am currently reading Egyptian Alaa Al Aswany’s The Automobile Club of Egypt. Al Aswany is my second Egyptian author, after Nobel Prize in Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz.
I can still vividly remember when I picked up The Automobile Club of Egypt during the 2018 Big Bad Wolf Book Sale two years ago. I was captivated by the title and the book’s colorful cover, well aside from the fact that it was sold for a bargain price. Nearly two years after I bought, I was finally able to find the time to read it as part of my February 2020 African literature month.
The opening chapter of The Automobile Club of Egypt got me quite confused as it was a disconnect to the rest of the narrative. As I am just about 1/4 into the story, the story might still revolve in a way that I have not foreseen. There is still quite a long way to go with the story and later on, the invisible threads connecting the opening chapter to the rest of the narrative might start appearing.
At the start, the history of Karl Benz and how he invented automobile was related. It felt more like a punctuation as there seems to be no connection with the rest of the story. Well, except for the fact that it is about the “automobile club”. I don’t know. Nonetheless, I’m still perplexed as to how it fits in to the rest of the story.
A third layer to story starts to surface as I read on. This layer is, I surmise, is the story’s primary and dominant layer as it relates the story of the eponymous Automobile Club. The third layer is about Abd el-Aziz Gaafar and his family. An honest, generous and kind man, he was forced to move his family to Cairo from Daraw because of bankruptcy. From a renowned landowner, he was reduced to a mere storeroom assistant. Despite these setbacks, he has big dreams for his family, especially for his daughter Saleha.
Apart from the Gaafars, a major antagonist surfaces in the form of Alku. Alku is the reliable overseer of the Automobile Club. Under his care, the club’s staff was carefully trained to the minute. Tyrannical and domineering, Alku is the antithesis of Abd el-Aziz. It is now interesting to witness how their lives will intertwine. Moreover, interesting subjects and themes have been discussed including discrimination and colonialism. It is interesting to see how the storyline of Kamel, one of Gaafar’s three sons, develops.
There are so many interesting facets to the story that I am thoroughly enjoying despite the initial confusion. The language flows and is easy to follow, hence, a pleasurable and unhampered reading is in line. I’ll be immersing in the book this weekend and hopefully, I get to finish it.
How about you fellow reader? What book are you going to read this weekend? I hope you get to enjoy whatever book you are reading. Happy weekend reading everyone!