The novelist and publisher talks to the Guardian about writing, politics, and his latest tome, A Hologram for a King.

This article titled “Dave Eggers: ‘We tend to look everywhere but the mirror' – interview” was written by Interview by Elizabeth Day, for The Observer on Saturday 26th January 2013 21.00 UTC

Your portrayal of Saudi Arabia [in A Hologram for the King] sounds note-perfect – from the female surgeon who wears male trunks to go swimming to the foreign labourers fighting over a discarded cellphone. Did you do research trips there? What did you think about it as a country?

I went to Saudi Arabia in 2010, and spent most of my time in Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City. Before I went, I'd talked to friends who visited the kingdom, and some who'd lived there, so I had some sense of what to expect. But when I got there, what struck me more than anything was how quickly it's changing. The internet arrived about 10 years ago, and more and more people have access to satellite TV, and now the youth of Saudi are insisting on change. And under King Abdullah, there's been movement on many fronts. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is one example — women and men mix more freely there – and the arts in general are far more accepted and even liberated than ever before. I did a forum recently with three young Saudi artists, including Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first feature-film director from the kingdom, and all three were optimistic about where things are headed. In 10 more years, I think we'll see some profound reforms.

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