By Youssef Shaalan, Yehia Shaalan and Mahmoud Abdel Latif
NEW CAIRO- Horror in novels enables people to cope with their problems, said prominent Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Towfik during a public lecture at the American University in Cairo (AUC) on Wednesday.
The lecture, hosted by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies of AUC, was held in the Bassily Auditorium of the university’s New Cairo campus from 1-2 p.m. The auditorium was filled with professors as well as students.
The author of the bestselling Arabic novel “Utopia” talked about the rewarding nature of writing for the Egyptian youth and how issues in the country influenced him to write in the horror genre. Writing for the young generation allowed him to use supernatural elements, like zombies and vampires, in tackling psychological issues. He believes that our problems start to become much less terrifying in comparison to the horrific things we read about in horror stories.
“Horror writing has always been a safety valve that helps people recover from their inner fears and phobias,” said Towfik. “People like stories about zombies; when you see the living dead, you forget your fears.”
“I think horror could help us forget about our problems, but only when we’re reading the story,” said Farah Lotfy, a junior psychology major at AUC. “After we finish the story and return to reality, nothing has changed. We’re back to our problems again.”
A big fan of horror novels, Towfik explained how he started his career of writing fiction, “I said to myself, ‘if you want more horror, write it’.”
His exploration of the horror genre led him to create a series of literary works named “Fantasia”. After years of writing horror, Towfik found that writing about these supernatural elements were not enough to help him face his own fears.
“I had to stop writing about ghosts, werewolves and vampires, and start talking about something more scarier: the future of Egypt,” he said. “That’s how ‘Utopia’, a great dystopia, came to life.”
“Utopia,” released in Arabic in 2009, dealt with social and political issues in Egypt, issues that led to the 25th of January revolution. Predicting a chaotic revolution in his novel, Towfik was surprised by how peaceful and well organized the 2011 revolution was.
Towfik advised other writers by saying that nobody is perfect and that success in writing takes a lot of time and effort. Open to criticism, Towfik said that it’s the people who offer him feedback, whether negative or positive, that make him feel alive.
Since the beginning of the Fall Semester of 2015, “Utopia” is the focus of the AUC Common Reading Program. A motion picture based on “Utopia” is currently in the pre-production stage.