Autumn Quail السمان والخريف

 In Egypt, Vignettes

Cairo Central squareI’ve been following the tumultuous events in Egypt with interest and I recalled the opening page of Naguib Mahfouz’s Autumn Quail that echoes the fate of the Morsi government (and previously Mubarak’s). One day in 1952, our hero Isa el-Dubagh arrives at Cairo Station unaware his life is about to change forever…..

When the train drew to a halt, he could see no one waiting for him. Where was his secretary? Where were the office staff and messengers? He looked among the people standing outside on the platform but failed to find anyone he recognized. What had happened? At the Canal the blow had been vicious, but was Cairo reeling as well?

He left his place in the front of the carriage and walked toward the exit, briefcase in hand, feeling irritated and tense, then worried, until, driven by some natural impulse, he began to examine people’s faces closely. They seemed to mirror a terrifying anxiety.

But what was going on in Cairo?

There was no car to take him anywhere. In the station square, people were walking in every direction, anger on their faces, heaping curses on the British.

من السمان والخريف /بقلم نجيب محفوظ

وقف القطار ولكنه لم يجد أحدا في انتظاره. أين موظفو المكتب؟ أين السعاة؟ وأجال بصره في المكان والناس بلا جدوى. ماذا جرى! هل دار رأس القاهرة تحت ضربة القنال الآثمة؟! وغادر موقفه عند مقدمة العربة فسار حاملا حقيبته الصغيرة نحو الخارج وهو يقطب استياء ثم ساوره قلق. وتفحص الوجوه بدافع غريرى فوجدها تعكس انقباضا مخيفا تتيبأ بالمخاوف.

ولكن ماذا في القاهرة؟

لا عربة واحدة لتنقله. وفي ميداي المحظة جماهير تجرى في كل اتجاه. الغضب يشتعل بالوجوه واللعنات تُنصب على الإنجليز.

It seems apposite after the events this week, and I thoroughly recommend it. (Apologies for any typos, it’s late).

Note

From April to November 2013 I kept a news blog about Egyptian Railways, where I translated and summarised articles from the Egyptian (Arabic) press and posted them in English. This was through the period of the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood government, after which train services were suspended for many weeks. This is one of a small number of the 150 blog posts I wrote during that time. 

If you have any stories about railways or the Middle East in general that you would like help to write or publish, please get in touch.

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