Taxi by Khaled Alkhamissi – review

By Chris Ross

This debut collection of 58 fictional monologues by Cairo taxi drivers proves an eye-opening experience, as they discourse on matters as diverse as bootleg video games, Nile fishing, malnourished policemen, the influence of Kurosawa on Egyptian cinema; plus more predictable topics (the double lives of veiled women, censorship and repression, and of course, all those wars: six day, Yom Kippur, the Gulf, Iraq …). Yet garrulous cabbies are pretty hackneyed, and reading it straight through, I did come to feel as if I'd spent rather too much time on a leatherette seat queasily inhaling a Magic Tree and wishing the traffic ahead would clear. Dipped in and out of, however, this democratic cacophony transforms into a fresh and fast crash course not just in the backdrop to the Arab spring, but in all aspects of contemporary North African culture and people, from ever-present convenience foods to extreme hunger, and from economic migrants to avant-garde artists. We are all the richer for it.

The GuardianTramp

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