The Contrast of Paradise

The story Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik  tells a story of an Egypt wracked by social unrest and class divide. In Towfik’s futuristic version of Egypt, there are only two classes. There are the people who live in Utopia, and the Others who live outside. The two classes lead lives that are opposites in nearly every way, and is best exemplified by the two Narrators that the story follows. The first is a Utopian, a young man who throughout life has never wanted for any physical need. The second is a young man living outside of Utopia who needs to struggle each day simply to survive.


In Ahmed’s tale, the Utopian Narrator simply does not seem to know the concept of challenge or adversity. If the Utopian Narrator want’s something to eat or drink, he gets it with no questions asked. If he wants to laze away every day watching violent movies, he can. If he wants to force himself upon his African maid, she can’t stop him. As opposed to other works of science fiction that depict utopian societies, Utopia seems to portray its abundance in a very negative light. According to Ahmed Khaled Towfik, giving a society everything it could ever desire for no work doesn’t create a culture of explorers, scientists, and artists; instead it creates a society comprised almost exclusively of psychopaths and spoiled brats so far removed from reality that they don’t even consider the people outside of their paradise human.


In stark contrast to the Utopian Narrator, the Other Narrator knows nothing but challenge and adversity. If the Other Narrator wants something to eat or drink, he has to hunt down a dog and drink the filth from a puddle. If he wants to spend the day relaxing and entertaining himself, then that’s another step towards death by starvation. If he wants to avoid being raped or mugged then he’s completely out of luck, because things of that nature are an everyday occurrence for the Others. According to Towfik, in a similar way that eternal pampering creates a society of psychopaths, being denied basic needs and being forced to fight to simply survive turns people into animals concerned only with self preservation. The Others are so deprived of luxury that a full on brawl breaks out among a group of Others over a minuscule bottle of  drugs.

The dark society displayed within Utopia shows humanity at its very worst, and is an excellent representation of Towfik’s ideas about effort and reward. The book is truly a fascinating, if disturbing look into modern society and I would heartily recommend it as a book on the same level as 1984 or Brave New World.


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