Arab Today, arab today ahmed khaled towfik egypt\s doctor of escapism
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Egypt\'s doctor of escapism

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Egypt\'s doctor of escapism

Cairo - Arabstoday

With his navy suit, tinted glasses and pinstriped shirt covering a middle-aged paunch, it is easy to imagine Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik writing prescriptions or prowling before a pack of students in a lecture theatre. It takes a greater leap of imagination to envisage this mild-mannered professor of tropical diseases as the voice of Arab youth, giving them an exhilarating sense of escapism with his horror and thriller novellas. But Towfik is something of a hero in his native Egypt and one of the most prolific Arab writers of his time, churning out more than 500 titles and writing up to 22 books a year while holding down a full-time job at the university in Tanta, the city where he was born. He was the first Arab writer to pen horror and science fiction thrillers. Many of his stories are set in Egypt with a cast of characters who have developed a cult following, such as the semi-autobiographical doctor Refaat Ismael in his Ma Waraa al Tabiaa series. His books have inspired a younger generation of writers who grew up on a diet of his tales and are now following in his footsteps by writing their own, such as Ahmed Mourad, the author of Vertigo. Now though, Towfik is in danger of being left behind. Aged 49 and more than a year on from the revolution in Egypt - an uprising dubbed \"Revolution 2.0\" by its protagonists, a reference to the central role the internet and social media played in the movement - he admits he has little patience for Facebook and Twitter and has no intention of using them to reach out to a new breed of followers. \"Even my own two children prefer Facebook to reading my books,\" he says ruefully. \"I am too old for it though. I have four Facebook sites dedicated to me, but I don\'t know how to use it myself.\" In Dubai for the annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, he admits he has yet to write a new work focusing on Egypt\'s seismic changes: \"We are not a country yet and change is still happening. We need time for digestion. If I write about it now, it would be like regurgitating. \"I feel it is wrong to write literature about the revolution now. Nothing is sharp any more, so I am sticking to writing political articles and horror books for youth until things settle down.\" Yet visions of a horrific future have been plaguing Towfik for some time and in Utopia, his first and only adult fiction, written in 2007, he imagines an Egyptian society living in cosseted wealth in gated enclaves in 2023, without rules or morals and eventually driven by boredom to hunt their impoverished compatriots who live beyond the gates for sport. Tellingly, he writes in the foreword: \"The Utopia mentioned here is an imaginary place ... even though the author knows for certain that this place will exist soon.\" The revolt of the poorer classes may not have happened as he predicted but, he says, his grim vision serves as a warning: \"I imagined a lot of classes would revolt and there would be chaos everywhere. \"It is our good luck that did not happen, but I sometimes feel very pessimistic about the future. I feel civil war is inevitable in Egypt and that Christians will separate to make their own communities. So in my writing, I have gone back to horror. It is escapism from the real horror.\" The son of a cotton trader and a university secretary, Towfik first started writing adventure stories and thrillers at the age of 10. His father owned a vast library and, unusually for an Egyptian teenager, Towfik began devouring British, American and Russian classics from the likes of Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, Chekhov and Tolstoy, a dictionary at hand when he stumbled over the language.

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