tThree bottles sit in a padded field behind immediate noodles and chilly drinks on show at Shoukry Cairo’s stall, their ornate textual content and unique stamp — “1954, Italy” — suggesting one thing particular. These are “first-class” wishes, one of the best that cash should buy, able to curing illness, creating nice fortunes or bringing dinosaurs again to life. So why hasn’t anybody purchased it but?
The thrill round Dina Mohamed has been constructing since 2013 when, on the age of 18, she started posting a gritty, hilarious comedy video on-line known as Qahera a few “veiled superhero” who clashes with everybody from hypocritical adults to Western feminists. Her bold graphic novel debut would elevate her inventory. Revealed in Egypt in three volumes between 2017 and 2021, it was translated and picked up by Mohamed herself in a chunky hardcover in English. Learn from proper to left like the unique Arabic textual content, this compelling city fantasy sees three atypical workers of a shukri kiosk grappling with the implications of their want.
On this world, magical needs have existed for hundreds of years. Logically, Muhammad doesn’t delve into their actions, however as a substitute explores the transformations they supply and the historical past written by the highly effective – as is likely to be anticipated. At first, even in “desire-rich” areas resembling North Africa and the Center East, using needs was restricted. Then the empires of Europe got here up with a approach to extract it, handle it and retailer it in bottles. At present, companies, governments, and rich residents monopolize greatest needs for every thing from protection initiatives to flying Porsches, leaving “third-rate” needs to most of the people.
It is a blended blessing. Within the opening pages, a younger man named Abdou repeatedly needs for a Mercedes, however solely manages to conjure up elements from automobiles and small fashions earlier than an outsized, streamlined automotive leaves him useless on the road. The Egyptian authorities is lastly following within the European Union’s footsteps in banning third-tier needs, and the argument over the legality of needs at Shoukry’s kiosk — although it is the extra environment friendly and dependable “first-class” — is making patrons suppose twice. Abdou’s widow, Aziza, wonders if a want can heal her wounds. Depressed pupil Nour searches for a approach to escape the “insufferable weight” of every day, however he suspects it may be present in a bottle. Shukri is taken into account deed that will rid him of his troublesome wishes, and assist another person within the course of.
Most tales about wishing concentrate on what occurs subsequent – fortune received and surprising negative effects. However Muhammad is extra involved with what comes earlier than that: doubting learn how to formulate a want, whether or not it’s forbidden (forbidden) What could be misplaced if it was granted. Your Want Is My Command provides each drama and introspection as Aziza negotiates grief and bullying officers, Nour breaks out of his darkened feelings and Shukri tries to maintain his enterprise going, whereas slowly revealing the key of the bottles’ origin.
Mohamed’s paintings bursts with vitality: crisp monochrome pictures of jail dot the brightly lit avenue corners, cheerful scenes of comedy sit subsequent to charts expressing Nour’s sentiments, whereas the bustling backstreets and prosperous suburbs of Cairo are brimming with romance and love. Shukri’s sales space shimmers like a jewel underneath the streetlights, whereas needs come out of their bottles in an summary tangle of ribbons and print. Mohamed provides poignant nods to metropolis life because it progresses, presenting native pastries, etiquette and avenue slang in a e book that blends the anecdote-like cosmopolitanism with vigorous areas.
At occasions it feels a bit cramped – juxtaposed with narratives of oppression, school life, despair, religion and imperialism, violence and friendship, Your Want Is My Command delivers bits of world-building via excerpts from Noor’s lecture course on “needs and philosophies” and referencebook-style particulars to make needs. Nonetheless, whereas the e book’s spell generally breaks down, it is not lengthy earlier than you are drawn to a pointy observe, an exuberant portray, or a speaking donkey. This story of impulse and magic teeters with concepts, but treats its improbable subject material with deftness and its characters with care. Care. It’s an auspicious begin as you want.