June 2016 Club

A Hologram for the King – Dave Eggers

On the face of it, A Hologram for the King appears to be a straightforward tale about a 54-year-old American salesman/consultant who comes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to sell hologram conferencing call technology to King Abdullah.

But dig a little deeper, and there are many underlying themes and strands that give the book an intriguing depth. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot comes to mind as Alan Clay and his young colleagues sweat it out day after day in a large tent in the yet-to-be-built King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) waiting to give their presentation to the royal family. The exact time or date of the King’s arrival are as elusive as Alan’s certainty over his future career.

Globalisation and the outsourcing of the American dream are strong themes throughout. Alan was instrumental in his own demise by forming part of the management team of his previous company which outsourced manufacturing from America to China, eventually making his own role irrelevant. The American Dream has been put on hold while the naked ambition of building the biggest and the best is subsumed by other, more economically vibrant economies. Meanwhile Americans are left in a society run by “the age of machines holding dominion over man… this was the triumph of systems designed to thwart all human contact, human reason, personal discretion and decision making.”

Eggers also explores Saudi Arabian cultural contradictions, “The whole country seemed to operate on two levels, the official and the actual”. He regularly observes how the actuality of life in the Kingdom differs from his guidebook and observes highways that split into Muslim-only sections and that more freedoms for women to drive and be uncovered in the more liberal KAEC are being hinted at.

Alan’s powerlessness to “do what he should do when he should do it” spills from his business life into his personal life. Frustratingly, he doesn’t seem to know how to get the most out of life. In his fleeting relationships with women in the Kingdom, the reader is rooting for him to find genuine happiness, but he seems unable to respond when they make the first move. He seems to have totally lost his confidence and considers himself irrelevant. He is convinced that a growth at the top of his spine represents something foreboding other than his underlying uncertainty and lack of confidence, but a bitter divorce and the thought of telling his daughter that he won’t be able to pay her college fees unless they secure this contract have adversely affected both his mental and physical health.

Colourway inspiration

Somewhat unexpectedly, pink was a dominant colour – the pink adobe houses, the pastel-pink condominium and mention of pink dolphins.

But I was also struck by Alan’s scuba-diving expedition with Zahra, which seems the only time in the book that he’s truly happy – they see abundant coral, bright orange fish, clownfish and a parrot fish. So I dyed up a coral pink, then over-dyed it twice with a coral orange – so the coral pink should show through just a little.

The resultant colourway, which I’ve called Arabian Sunset, would team up well with an inky blue, teal, taupe, chocolate or slate grey.

For the variegated yarn, I took the coral pink and orange and added in a blue-slate grey to represent the skyscrapers under construction and an inky dark blue to represent the cloudless night sky and left a bit of white to represent the white thobes of the Saudi men. I called the colourway Mirage.

The yarn base is Selkino – a silky, cool summery yarn.