Abu Dhabi Book Fair 2017: Catching up with award-winning Egyptian writer Mohammad Rabie

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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.

“That was the intention of the book,” he says. “Part of what I wanted to do is draw a painting of a modern hell to the reader.”

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.

The book deservedly earned Rabie a spot on the International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist last year, which means the 38-year-old Egyptian will be one of the major draws at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which starts on April 26 and continues until May 2 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Read more
Source: The National
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