With the most English sounding of titles, Egyptian 1964 classic Beer in the Snooker Club by Waguih Ghali portrays Ram, a penniless and charming Egyptian Copt who lives well off his wealthy aunts, his own father having lost a fortune on the ‘bourse’. Seduced by the sophistication of Europe, Ram and his friend Font travel to London to immerse themselves in the political and cultural ideas of the time. Meanwhile, Egypt is going through its own political upheaval with the end of British imperialism, Nasser’s revolution and a burgeoning Communist movement. Which side, if any, will Ram come down on?
Ram is a politically and culturally torn young man, perpetually at the margins. As a Christian in a Muslim country, as the poor relation in his wealthy wider family, as part of a wealthy family in a poor country, as a communist in his conservative family and as a Western educated, French speaker in Egypt, no wonder Ram is confused.
Despite sponging off his aunts and friends and working as little as possible, Ram is a likeable and funny anti-hero. His directionless life in laid bare the day he meets Edna, a politically active, Egyptian Jewess, way out of Ram’s league, whom he falls hopelessly in love with. Will he give it all up for a greater cause?
I enjoyed this lighthearted book for the insight into a torn young mind, whose inherent privilege and innate laziness stand in the way of doing the right thing and the peak into the an upper-class whose lifestyles were protected by the colonialists.
Beer in the Snooker Club by Waguih Ghali is published by Serpent’s Tail, 224 pages.