With the pre-publication launch of an excerpt of Mohamad Rabie’s third novel, Otared — both in the original Arabic and in English translation by Robin Moger — the Egyptian journal Mada Masr is establishing itself as a place for fresh new creative work:
The novel is Rabie’s third, and he has won acclaim for the first two: Amber Planet (2010) and The Year of the Dragon (2012). Rabie was also selected to be part of the 2012 International Prize for Arabic Fiction nadwa.
But in this novel, writes translator Robin Moger, Rabie hits his fearless stride.
The novel is named for its protagonist, Captain Ahmed Otared, but it’s also is the planet Mercury. It’s a “future history,” like Nael Eltoukhy’scelebrated Women of Karantina, that follows the fortunes of a Cairo police officer. Or at least he begins as a Cairo police officer when we meet him at the scene of a horrific crime: a father killing and eating wife and children and feeding their flesh to the chidlren’s grandfather.
Moger calls it a “quite extraordinary, weird, epic book. Deeply upsetting (and I mean emotionally affecting, not shocking) in parts (I found some of it hard to read) shocking in parts, but always haunted and terrifying.”
It opens at a horrible crime scene. From the English translation:
This line of blood puts me in mind of many things.
It’s traced on the wall, not quite vertically but leaning at a slight angle and at its apex bending sharply back to the ground. Small droplets hang down, running from the edge of the bend. It reminds me of an ostrich’s tail feather, a column of water rising from a fountain, the glowing tracks of fireworks launched across the sky.
It’s great to see Mada throwing its hat into the creative-writing ring, and it will be great to see this book getting out to readers in Arabic and in English translation.
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