Tuesday, April 9, 2019

2 Officers by Essam Youssef – English Book Review

2 Officers is the second novel by Essam Youssef. It begins by introducing the characters of Sherif Bayoumy and Waleed Samy, their families, backgrounds and ambitions. Then, we see the scenes and chapters alternating between these two characters, who are worlds apart with the exception that they both joined the police force.

Sherif is spoilt, ambitious and used to getting what he wants. He is willing to go beyond the limits to fulfill his endless ambition and lust for money and power, and all the world has to do is succumb to him. He does not care for anyone but himself. His selfishness is sickening.

One of the major themes, in 2 Officers, is that of power and what this power is used for. Sherif seeks to increase his connections to gain power and riches through illegal means. Not only that, as an officer, he deems himself entitled to getting anything and everything. As an officer, who is supposed to provide security by imposing the law, Sherif is a law-breaking citizen who has a reputation for breeding fear the in the hearts of others, not safety.

Waleed Samy, on the other hand, comes from a simple family. He is used to working in teams through the Central Police Force. He is loyal to the law, his comrades and his family.

When the distant worlds of these two officers collide, all hell breaks loose as we see the Sherif surrounded by similarly corrupt people and others not corrupt but who do not care to get to the bottom of things and simply make room for more of Sherif’s corruption. They let him get away with things to avoid a headache.

Waleed is stupefied when the law is not on his side, despite filing all the necessary papers to see his right – and that of his wife and brother – returned and to see justice served. Only then does he finally believe his brother and realise that if he wants to see justice served he must take things into his own hands.

The novel moves at a fairly slow pace as the chapters alternate between the two officers. The pace picks up immensely after their worlds clash. Then, it is impossible to put the book down.

2 Officers is written in simple but formal Arabic with the dialogue in colloquial or spoken Arabic. The dialogue is done well as it alternates light humour and important information. It also gives the reader space to see the characters in light of their speech and reactions. Furthermore, it quickens the pace of the novel.

Although the novel focuses on Sherif and Waleed, there are other characters, who though play minor roles, play important parts in the construction of the novel itself. These include Amr, one of Waleed’s three best friends, whose jokes and sense of humour are endless and very much needed in this serious novel. Other characters from places in Upper Egypt are funny with their simplicity and in the way they speak, like Moghazy, who is both funny and intelligent and is crucial to Waleed’s plans.

Overall, 2 Officers is very different from its predecessor ¼ Gram. Both take place in Egypt and deal with social issues. ¼ Gram deals with youth and drugs, whereas 2 Officers takes the reader to the world of police officers, enforcing laws and breaking them. It also takes the readers down the path of men, where some have a humanitarian side, while others have destructive ambition that will bite them in the end.

Overall, 2 Officers is yet another great novel by Essam Youssef, who tends to disappear for a while and reappear with a bang.

In 2013, Youssef said he would begin working on his third novel The Baron’s Palace, which he expects to be a romance novel.

2019 update: Youssef has not released The Baron's Palace nor has he discussed any updates in this regard.

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