By Ben East
It was one of the most memorable book reviews of last year. As our critic pondered the English translation of Mohammad Rabie’s award-winning tale of a futuristic Egyptian dystopia, she concluded by saying that “reading Otared is, by and large, like having a hand grasping the back of your head, forcing you to look through photos from hell”.
Seven months later, Rabie is not only familiar with the quote, he also seems to quite like it.
He certainly does that. Otared begins with a horrific murder in contemporary Egypt. It then moves forward to an incredibly bleak 2025, with Cairo split into areas occupied by the Knights of Malta and a resistance led by the Egyptian police. But the police are corrupt and their hero is the titular Otared, a sniper shockingly ambivalent about his targets.