My review of Autostrade—and their brilliant launch event—went up over at Al Masry Al Youm. Meanwhile, TokTok graphic-novel magazine will be launching their third edition at Townhouse Gallery this Saturday, and TokTok2 is available (free) online.
Has the time come for Egypt to be, as Division Publishing co-founder Marwan Imam put it, one of the world’s comics hotspots? Yes.
Note that Autostrade is bilingual, but they are not translated echoes. Rather some comics were in English and some in Arabic, as per the preference of the author. Oh, and why do I say vote? Because, after a few issues, Autostrade readers will be asked to vote on their favorite comics, and those (rather democratically) will be given their own series.
The stories on “Autostrade’s” Arabic side are generally more focused and more engaged with Egyptian life. “Marahal al-Hayah” (Stages of Life), by Marwan Imam, has two parallel stories of a job seeker enduring a long and suffocating wait in a lobby and a young woman enduring a stifling talk about marriage with her mother.
In “Hakayat al-Mustashfa” (Hospital Tales), by Ahmed al-Mojadidy and Ahmed Wasfy, a doctor-narrator promises readers that every day, something strange happens inside the government hospital where he works. It’s a great premise, although we don’t see much outside a conversation with a 40-year-old woman, who is overjoyed that some doctor finally cares about her health woes (uh, sort of).
The densest and most literarily intriguing was Magdy al-Shafee‘s “Al Qasr (Remix)” (The Castle (Remix)). Its chatty, self-aware, story-within-a-story structure features 20th century Egyptian intellectual Taha Hussein on a Harley Davidson and a re-imagining of Hussein and writer Tawfiq al-Hakim’s collaborative work “The Enchanted Castle,” which is itself a tale of strange juxtapositions with Sheherazade returning to Earth to meet the two authors at a hotel in the French Alps. Read the whole piece.