Otared by Mohammad Rabie

Book review: Mohammad Rabie’s Otared, with its shocking, dystopian vision of Egypt’s future, is an eye-opener

Otared by Mohammad rabie

Egyptian Fiction

Original title – Utarid

Translator – Robin Moger

Source – Review copy

When I was contact by the person from Hoopoe fiction the new imprint from AUC , I was more than happy to receive there first few books as I am always meaning to read more Arabic fiction, I read a number a few years ago when Arablit did a list of must read Arabic books in her arabic summer reading challenge , I can’t believe it is seven years ago well more than over due so more Arabic titles on the Blog and today we start with Mohammad Rabie an Egyptian writer , who has written three novels this his latest was shortlisted for this year Arabic book prize.

This blood line put me in mind of many things.

It was traced on the wall, not quite vertically but leaning  at a slight angle and at its apex looping sharply back to the ground. Small droplets hung down, running from the edge of the bend. It reminded me of an ostrich’s tail feather, a column of water rising from a fountain, the glowing tracks of fireworks launched across the sky

The butcher was a true professional.

The opening lines give a sense of what follows in this book as he says thew traces if blood remind him of so much .


This is a book about Egypt today but has been written in a future time frame looking back .It is 2025 and Cairo has been invaded by the Knights of Malta this sets a policeman Ahmed Otared also a former sniper to join the liberation force as the city is turned into a den of sex drugs and violence they set about freeing it . Then in another timeline we look back at the failed Arab spring of 2011 through the view of a family that are left feeling alienate and dead after the failed Arab spring . This then leads to the later events when the city uncared for becomes a bloodbath as Otared and his fellow fighters violently try to wrestle back egypt for the Egyptians .

The Tower group was our official designation, and one that no one will ever find recorded in any official document. But it was the term “Hornets “which caught the imagination of the general public and became our Nom de guerre . Truth be told , no one had the slightest knowledge of our presence, but they were aware that there were many snipers stationed throughout the city, on rooftops and up tall buildings. We left a clear trail – an officer walking down the street then dropping without  warning; a soldier sittin g calmly at a cafe, his brains sprayed over the tables of those sitting beside him – and so it was that people came to conflate the Tower group with snipers scattered through the streets of East Cario .

The group Otared is in is killing anyone in the way to get rid of the Knights of Malta from Cario !

This is of course a work of what is a growing move into Genre fiction in the Arab lit world. This book is to say the least is violent it is full of killing and violence as a country wrestles with its self to claim its self back at a point I felt as thou he had swap Beirut of the 80’s for the Cairo of the 2025 the internal violence and way the city is falling apart remind me of those news reports we saw of the Lebanon capital  in the 1980s builds scared with gunfire and a sense of lawlessness in the city itself. I saw an interview with rabie he made for the Arabic shortlist talking about the book and the sense that there was a sense of loss of place in some people’s hearts after the failed Arab spring. This is a book that shows what could happen a dark turn that could be taken an undercurrent waiting 800-1000 died in Cario in 2011 . How many more next time ? A brutal book about a world that could happen , as I said in my wioletta Greg post when did we here in the Uk stop being interested in the world  news (I know we have this on radio 4 and newsnight etc but on our main news it is so much less than years ago ). Have you read any of the Arabic prize books ?


January 2017


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