"This sumptuous fable from Egyptian novelist [Abdel] Megid, winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz award, is more a combination of interconnected stories than a single narrative, but its characters are united in their yearning for the 'distant train'—at once real and metaphorical. . . . Megid's prose is lush, and possesses with Marquezesque charm, and the novel's final message is hopeful: life must be seized, and cherished; salvation, whatever its form, will not come on its own."—Publishers Weekly
“While the fading autumn sun sped toward the horizon, the young boys headed home—they were not used to trying to see at night without the moon’s glow.” So begins this unconventional, hauntingly mythic novel. In the tradition of magical-realism, author Abdel Meguid crafts a tale steeped in symbolism. Writing in a shimmering lyrical style he brings alive the dreams, customs, and everyday concerns of people living in historic obscurity on the fringe of the glitzy petro-dollar kingdoms of the Middle East.
The tale begins on a worksite in Egypt’s western desert. Here, in the middle of nowhere, railway men and locals wait in hope for the annual return of a “distant train.” When last it came this vehicle brought with it foreigners, soldiers—and economic opportunity; then it stopped. Each of Meguid’s characters is allegorical in nature. Each part of the novel is framed by memory and the way remembrance takes shape and affects the characters. The story’s main characters are time and place. Yet its dramatic thrust is the ways in which place gives rise to history through the passage of time and the rise and fall of settlement. Distant Train reaffirms Meguid’s status as a new, imaginative, and distinct voice in the field of narrative literature and the time-honored arena of storytelling.
Ibrahim Abdel Megid is one of the premier novelists of his generation in Egypt. He was born and raised in the literary city of Alexandria, where the majority of his works are set. His more recent output includes award-winning novels such as The Other Place, winner of the inaugural Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, and No One Sleeps in Alexandria, winner of the Cairo International Book Fair special award for best novel of the year.
Hosam M. Aboul-Ela is a critic and translator who grew up in Texas and currently teaches at the University of Houston. He has published essays on topics as diverse as Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian media, Latin American intellectuals, and William Faulkner. His previous translation is the novel Voices by Soleiman Fayyad.
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