‘Beer in the Snooker Club’: Egypt Then and Now

New cover.

Has it been a while since you last read Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club? Well, then I encourage you to read it again. From my glance at the classic novel (and what it says about Egypt, then and now) in AGNI online:

A half-century ago, Egyptians gathered in streets and public squares to protest an illegitimate regime. Thousands were injured in the clashes, and hundreds were killed. But the desire for freedom proved stronger than fear: protests continued, the Brits fled, and a jubilant Egypt cheered new, indigenous leadership. Yet as the years passed and dictatorship took hold, “New” Egypt sank back into old patterns of cronyism and disenfranchisement. The arc of this movement—from revolution to stagnation—forms the backbone of Waguih Ghali’s classic Beer in the Snooker Club, re-released in the U.K. in December 2010.

Classic cover.

First published in 1964, the novel follows young Egyptians in their search for dignity and freedoms. It is narrated by Ram, a brilliant, impoverished young man with ultra-wealthy relations. In his early twenties, Ram battles against British forces at Suez, gets into a fistfight with one of his American-allied cousins, and falls deeply in love with a Jewish-Egyptian woman. But, six years later—after time spent both at home and abroad—he is unable to build on his ideals. He can neither join with the elites nor shake the elitist predilections of his British-formed character, and his protests turn from sincere to clownish. Instead of a righteous fistfight with his wealthy cousin, he pushes the cousin into a social-club pool.

Keep reading.