At a time in his life when he should have been soaking up the rich cultural history and natural beauty of the landscape around him, Norman Lang was busy keeping a low profile working as an English teacher in Cairo, Egypt. The 1960s were, among other things, a time of often violent political change the world over, and Scottish-born Lang quickly discovered that the Middle East was a hot spot for unrest.
Lang relates his experiences as a twenty-something bachelor teaching abroad, visiting museums, imbibing the culture with his students, and patronizing the local tourist attractions in metropolitan Cairo. Not immune to the counterculture of the 1960s, Lang recalls philosophical discourses on love and relationships and government and politics, hazy nights at Egyptian pubs and dinner parties, his whirlwind affair with an American woman, and the nationally diverse array of friends he attracted while enjoying his Western salary in the Middle East. Peppered with anecdotes of his European home and the then-current events in America and other parts of the world, Lang provides a kaleidoscopic view of the 1960s culture and its ubiquitous, grumbling political undercurrents. The polarized tension erupts as a notable German couple is arrested under suspicion of espionage for Israel. Lang depicts the suddenly secretive behavior of those friends of his who didn’t disappear altogether, culminating in his own arrest and subsequent incarceration and interrogation.
A victim of fear and paranoia, rampant not only in Egypt at that time, Lang reflects on what happened to him and what could have happened if he had said anything that didn’t depict him merely as a wrongly-accused tourist. Turning his experienced insight on today’s world, Lang rounds out his journey through Middle Eastern turmoil and places today’s current events under the microscope, including the element of torture in a modern context. By the end of Lang’s memoir-esque tale and corresponding resoundingly relevant notions of patriotism, politics, and propaganda it may be difficult to maintain a black or white opinion on the rules of war and the roles of humanity. Steeped in Lang’s real-life past experiences and paralleled to the audience’s relatable world of today, The Cairo Incident leaves the reader with more than one moral-political conundrum to consider.