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What a Wonderful Feeling


By Ahmed Khaled Towfik 

11 Nov, 2020



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Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s 2012 Utopia is a standalone dystopic novel. The English translation is by Chip Rossetti.

When synthetics replaced oil, Egypt’s wealthy took their riches and retreated to the walled city of Utopia. The vast majority of Egyptians — the Others — were consigned to short, unpleasant lives of poverty. They lived outside the walls, where no Utopian need ever think of them.

The young unnamed Utopian protagonist, bored to tears, thinks of the Others all the time. 

The quest for entertainment is endless. Drugs and sex pall over time. Accordingly, Utopia’s youths turn to the Others for entertainment, sneaking out of their walled city to hunt and kill unfortunate Others, bringing back severed body parts as trophies. 

Having made his way into the nearest Other community, the Utopian discovers that his cunning plan to infiltrate and kill has a tiny flaw, which is that regardless of what stolen clothes he and his companion wear, any Other can tell just by looking at them that they are from Utopia. The Others are curiously unhappy about being consigned to hell and even less happy about being hunted. Detection is therefore very close to a death sentence.

Our protagonist survives only thanks to the intervention of a man named Gaber. Educated before society collapsed, Gaber loathes the Utopians. To rape and murder them, however, crosses a line he is unwilling to cross. To prove he is not the animal that Utopians think he and the Others are, he hides the invaders from the Other mob that would otherwise kill them.

This is noble indeed. And tragically misguided, since Utopians can no more restrain themselves than can scorpions. 


If you are looking for a feel-good story about people connecting across vast socioeconomic gulfs, look elsewhere. This is not that book. This is the book about how people who ensured a comfortable life for themselves by impoverishing everyone else are not to be trusted. It’s about how children raised to see the masses as animals there for entertainment purposes are not going to have glorious epiphanies about how wrong they’ve been just because an Other saved their life. 

Utopia begins unpleasantly and pursues that course for the whole of the book. Points for consistency, I guess. Still, despite being skillfully written and demonstrating a sensible grasp of human nature, the result is not a lot of fun to read. I suppose there must be readers who have not had their fill of dystopia in recent years; they might consider adding this to their Mount Tsundoku. 

Utopia is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo), for various values of available. I did not find it in English at Barnes & Noble.