Wow, I truly needed Basma Abdel Aziz to write one more chapter of The Queue!! When I finished reading and turned the last page, I audibly let out a "noooo..." I needed closure. But what this story was about was a total lack of closure in a totalitarian regime. In a not-too-distant future in the Middle East, where a Revolution has been put down, and where citizens need to wait to obtain permission from the Gate for their daily affairs. Yet the Gate has remained closed since the "Disgraceful Events" (a failed revolution/popular uprising against the authoritarian government) and the queue in front of the Gate grows with each passing day. The story centers on Yehya, a middle-aged man who possibly participated in the Disgraceful Events who needs permission from the Gate to be operated on to remove a bullet from his stomach. As weeks go by, and the Gate doesn't open, Yehya becomes weaker and those around him begin to unravel and truth becomes further distorted...
She tried to convince Yehya, that the bullet that had pierced his side and lodged itself in his pelvis was a fake bullet, and it wasn't important to remove it, and that he no longer needed to trouble himself with who had shot him. But Yehya was not convinced, and he did not stop bleeding.
What scared me about the novel (and I guess is true of all good dystopian stories) is how real it felt. It did not seem too far off that a totalitarian government could come to power and deny citizens their most basic rights. As NPR writes, "And that, ultimately, is what makes The Queue such an effective critique of authoritarianism. The familiarity of the narrative, the banality of collective evil, is the most unsettling element." Also interesting to note is that the author, Basma Abdel Aziz, is an Egyptian journalist and psychiatrist who treats torture victims. Aziz said in an interview that "fiction gave me a very wide space to say what I wanted to say about totalitarian authority." This is her first book to be translated into English and it felt all too real.