“Hello, dearly liberated from the streets of our revolution, today we’ve got news from the front lines, tunes from the underground, and every political beat you need to get through your week.”
So begins each podcast produced by Chaos, the media collective that is, in its way, a protagonist of The City Always Wins. Omar Robert Hamilton’s debut follows Egypt’s revolution as if in real time, chronicling the aftermath of the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square through the experiences of Khalil, an Egyptian-Palestinian-American; Mariam, his Egyptian girlfriend; and their colleagues at Chaos, which they’ve founded in response to the state-controlled media. (It closely resembles the non-fictional Mosireen collective that Hamilton, a writer and filmmaker who “moved to Egypt looking for [his] Spanish Revolution,” helped found.)
The City Always Wins, though billed as a novel, reads more like an experiment in revolutionary reporting. To put it another way, Hamilton’s book is itself a version of the project its protagonists are engaged in. He puts immediacy front and center as he constructs a galvanizing record of what it felt like to be young and hopeful in a particular time and place. At the same time, The City Always Wins strives to tell a cohesive story—the goal, certainly at first, that inspires its characters, too. For many, to be young and hopeful in that time and place, as the denizens of Chaos know well, was to be concerned with mediating information, processing the raw material of the streets to create podcasts, videos, and tweets.