x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Utopia: a sea of angry poverty

Set in a gated community in the near future, Ahmed Khaled Towfik¿s thoroughly enjoyable novella Utopia is a thoughtful commentary on the growing friction between the rich and the poor in Egypt.

Utopia
Ahmed Khaled Towfik
Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation 
Publishing
Dh56

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is a full-time medical professor at Egypt's Tanta University and a part-time author, although one should hesitate to make even a tentative suggestion that he might be a slacker at anything he chooses to put his mind to. Towfik, 49, has written "no less than five hundred novellas", according to the English- and Arabic-language imprint Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP).

To those hundreds can now be added Utopia, Towfik's fiercely topical take on the rich and the poor of Egypt set somewhere in the near future. Inevitably, perhaps, his gated-community utopia is dystopian and nightmarish in its construct. It is, he writes, "an isolated colony that the rich created to protect themselves from the sea of angry poverty outside, and that now fences in everything they might want". Chaos and dysfunction rule beyond its borders, order and boredom flourish within.

This is about the only negative comment one could summon about Towfik's otherwise thoroughly enjoyable slim volume, which seems - like Ahmed Mourad's Vertigo and Khaled Al-Khamissi's Taxi before it (both also published by BQFP) - to resonate loudly in the moments after the Arab Spring.