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Utopia [Hardcover]

Ahmed Khaled Towfik , Chip Rossetti
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Sep 2011
A grim futuristic account of Egyptian society in the year 2023, Utopia takes readers on a chilling journey beyond the gated communities of the North Coast where the wealthy are insulated from the bleakness of life outside the walls. When a young man and a girl break out from this bubble of affluence in order to see for themselves the lives of their impoverished fellow Egyptians they are confronted by a world that they had not imagined possible. Breathtaking and suspenseful, Utopia's twists and turns will keep readers guessing until the very last page, and may leave some wondering whether this is a vision of the future that is not too far away.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing; 1st edition (19 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9992142677
  • ISBN-13: 978-9992142677
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 823,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Far more convincing a depiction of a nightmarish future even than A Clockwork Orange, Utopia is a miniature masterpiece. I defy anyone not to read it in one sitting. (Sholto Byrnes The Independent)

A wonderful novel, a real addition to Arabic literature (Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building)

Towfik paints a vivid picture of Egypt in 2023... a disturbing dystopic vision. (The Guardian, UK)

A disturbing dystopic vision (Eric Brown The Guardian, UK)

A highly imaginative novel that has succeeded in injecting new blood into the current [Arabic] literary scene. (The Daily News, Egypt)

A chilling portrait of a scary new world without morals or scruples... (Gulf News)

Thoroughly enjoyable... which seems - like Ahmed Mourad's Vertigo and Khaled Al-Khamissi's Taxi before it- to resonate loudly in the moments after the Arab Spring. (The National)

Towfik's real strength is in his imaginative observations of the predicaments of the tattered social fabric of the future. (Bidoun)

Ahmed Khaled Towfik's Utopia was translated in 2010, by Chip Rossetti, and published by a forward-thinking BQFP. This year, the book is a finalist for the English-language Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award. (M. Lynx Qualey Arablit.com)

A politically charged fable about human cruelty, where a prince and a pauper exchange roles as predator and prey... the cat-and-mouse between them reads a bit like Patricia Highsmith's mysteries. As with Highsmith or even Philip K. Dick, an irresistible sense of unease propels the reader forward... The "story" of the Arab Spring as it's been told in the U.S. has largely been one of technology: Twitter and other social media enabling heretofore-impossible collaborations and coalitions. Utopia, where technology fades into the background and the hunting is done with a knife, highlights the revolution's human dimensions. Hopefully, Utopia represents the first of many translations of Towfik's novels. (Scott Selisker Los Angeles Review of Books)

Book Description

The tensions of Mubarak's Egypt exposed by a master of his craft

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly readable 6 Aug 2013
By diabman
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. I must say that what I did get was a real view of something that could quite easily become the new reality for many disenfranchised people from all communities.
A lot of surpressed fears and anxieties for our respective futures, are distilled in this novel and all credit to it's creator, he makes it so easy to read and so easy to believe what could be possible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What price humanity? 9 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is a rare power and angry urgency to this addition to Utopian fiction! The fractured Egypt it depicts is a paradigm for society as a whole, where the future is decidedly dystopian. Elements of its terrifying vision are already in place - the withdrawal of the rich into their own gated communities, wealth concentrated in the hands of those who have monopolistic control of basic commodities and goods, the de-humanising effects of both wealth and poverty, etc. All that is required to bring it even closer is the breaking of the stranglehold of the (Middle Eastern) oil producers through the invention of an oil substitute. Tennyson's bleak view of Nature (for which read mankind) as being "red in tooth and claw" is made manifest in the pages of this novella. What price humanity, indeed!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy handed 17 Feb 2012
By Rainio
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was hoping for more.
Set in a short near-future near-apocalyptic segregated world the author mercifully concludes his morality tale in less than 160 pages using heavy handed handed language and preferring to "tell" rather than "show".
Also, couldn't find this "Breathtaking and suspenseful" plot that was promised in the blurb.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A short, sharp, steroid jab of a novel 23 April 2012
Format:Hardcover
Egypt, 2023: the nation's elite cling to a stretch of its north coast, the eponymous Utopia, fenced off and fortified by shoot-to-kill squads of ex-US marines. Over the wire exist the Others, in a broken-down, left-behind world where there is no rule of law and day-to-day life is a brutal struggle.
Such a dystopian landscape is nothing new, but in Ahmed Khaled Towfik's more than capable hands it is lent a new sense of urgency, underpinned by a conceit which renders his own Utopia more chillingly believable than the rest: the discovery of a new super-fuel which instantly renders the middle-east's oil reserves worthless.
The middle-classes have collapsed and the super-rich have fled behind gates to a community haemorrhaging wealth to the extent that almost anything is possible, and in which their offspring's only burden is the over-bearing nihilism which grows out of lives devoid of risk or thrill.
Utopia's teenage, nameless narrator - 'Let's not talk about names. What's the value of names when you're no different to anyone else?' - is the son of a pharmaceutical billionaire who passes his days overwhelmed with boredom:

'What can you do in this artificial paradise? You sleep, you take drugs, you eat until food makes you sick, you vomit until you can recover the enjoyment of eating, you have sex (it's weird how you notice that boredom makes your sexual behaviour aggressive and sadistic). If you knew another way for a person to live his life, I'd be happy if you could tell me about it.'

Utopia is a world in which even political enmity is non-existent: the narrator cannot fathom why former generations used to loathe the state of Israel. Here and now, money and status mean everything, no matter your creed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star, Must Read! 31 May 2012
By G. I. Basterian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you want to understand the Egyptian Revolution, read this book. As I am not a great reviewer, I'll quote extensively from a review in the Independent from SUNDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2011 which hits it out of the park. UTOPIA is especially important because the author is only 49, prolific, a popularist and a huge hit among Egyptian youth.

According to the Independent:

"The year is 2023. Our unnamed protagonist wakes up. He urinates, smokes, eats, pukes, has sex with the African maid, swigs whisky, scrawls a slogan on the wall of his home, dances, pukes again and eats some more. "In one hour, I've done everything, and there's nothing left in life that interests me or that I want." Welcome to Utopia, the gated, US Marine-protected colony on the north Egyptian coast to which the wealthy retreated when the country's society collapsed in the first decade of the 21st century.

In Ahmed Towfik's chilling, gripping vision of an alternative future, translated from the Arabic, Israel had built its own version of the Suez Canal, tourism revenues were insufficient to pay for services and the Middle East's petroleum reserves became worthless after the US invention of a new super-fuel. The Egyptian middle class disappeared, as did the apparatus of the state. Those who remained outside Utopia, The Others, sunk into bestiality. No one read books, poverty dismantled "the barricades of morality", and hunger, disease and violence became the norm.

Utopia's youth grow up utterly spoiled, devoid of feeling for their fellow men. Money has eroded traditions of respect and religion, and in their international enclave, none of the children are given Arabic names, setting them further apart from The Others and from their history. (They are puzzled as to why Israel should once have been considered an enemy.) Every conceivable pleasure is available to them, and they have no care for how their riches were obtained. As our arrogant but intelligent teenage protagonist tells us: "This was my land and this was my world. I was born here. If my father stole these rights, then they had become my birthright, and I wouldn't give them up for beggars and street whores." Only one thrill remains to the young who are inured to appreciation by a lifetime of instant gratification - and it lies beyond the barbed wire and security fences of Utopia.

The narrator and his girlfriend du jour knock out two of The Others who provide slave labour in Utopia, put on their rags and take the workers' bus to venture outside. Their mission: to find a suitable Other to kill, and then hack off a limb to bring back as a trophy of their hunt. If they find themselves in trouble, one call to a parent will have a Marine helicopter hovering over them within minutes, ready to gun down any maddened savages who are threatening to tear them apart. A mild reproach is all that will be visited upon them by way of chastisement on their return.

Only it doesn't quite turn out that way, and the couple find themselves at risk of rape, mutilation and death. They are only saved by Gaber, an Other who has managed to retain a shred of dignity and self-respect from his pre-lapsarian life, but whose every act of kindness they ultimately repay with cruelty and malice.

Towfik's novel is bleak and his characters are almost without any redeeming qualities. It is also utterly compelling. It is no surprise to find that, not only is the author a medical professor (the anatomical descriptions are gruesomely real) but, according to his publishers, he is "the Arab world's best-selling author of horror and fantasy genres". Far more convincing a depiction of a nightmarish future even than A Clockwork Orange, Utopia is a miniature masterpiece. I defy anyone not to read it in one sitting."
5.0 out of 5 stars Making arabic literature accessible for non-Arabs 17 July 2014
By sean oleary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a non-native speaker of arabic with a high degree of proficiency. My background mainly deals with media arabic and I am trying to delve into literary arabic. I have tried reading the classics from Najib Mahfouz and Taha Hussein, but have found it incredibly difficult and not relevant to modern times. This book is easier to read and has an interesting story. I love that there are modern arabic authors writing science fiction because it makes the language and even the culture more accessible for a a non-arab.
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and scary 17 Aug 2013
By daverz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pretty graphic novel about Egypt in 2023, where the privileged few live in a walled city protected by ex-US military and the Others live under inhumane conditions on the outside. A series of events leads to a surprise ending. Cynical and dark but very entertaining and thought-provoking.
4.0 out of 5 stars It is dangerous when you are out of touch 2 Mar 2013
By Nabil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The main theme is good and the writing is grasping. Do not underestimate the little guy and what he is willing to do for change.
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