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Two Egyptian Dystopias: The Sculptor’s Book and The Children of Hura

February 14, 20247:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Alcalá, 62). 7:00 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.
In Spanish and Arabic, with simultaneous translation.

In Madrid on Wednesday, February 14, Casa Árabe will be presenting two new publications by Egyptian authors who describe troubling dystopian futures. Along with writers Ahmad Abdulatif and Abdelrahim Kamal, the presentation will feature comments by philosopher Ignacio Gómez de Liaño and science fiction writer Lola Robles.

The Sculptor’s Book, one of the most highly acclaimed novels in the Arab world in recent times, has just been published in Spanish by Libros de las Malas Compañías as part of its African literature collection, Libros del Baobab. The book’s author, Ahmad Abdulatif, is one of the leading representatives of the so-called new Egyptian novel, which arose as a result of the problems caused by the Arab Spring. In this work, Abdulatif imagines a dystopian world on a desert island where a sculptor brings some deceased relatives and acquaintances back to life. They then take on new personalities. Using this approach, the author invites us to reflect on the rise of religions and the various interpretations that lead to extremism. 

At the same time, in The Children of Hura, Egyptian writer Abdelrahim Kamal fuses futuristic dystopia with Arab mythology. Four huge eggs appear in four North African cities, causing terror among their inhabitants. Enormous creatures end up hatching from the eggs, half human and half bird, called “the children of Hura.” They will rise to rule a world that has survived pandemics, catastrophes and wars, and in which the population lives under the severe restrictions put in place under the new world order. In order to govern justly, they commission Halim, the Quincallero, to write a book on the history of mankind. 

Casa Árabe has organized this event, with the participation of both novelists, along with Ignacio Gómez de Liaño, a writer, philosopher and the Spanish translator of the book, and Lola Robles, a Spanish writer who specializes in science fiction works. Presented by: Karim Hauser, coordinator of Casa Árabe’s Cultural Programs. 

Ahmad Abdulatif (Cairo, 1978) studied Hispanic Philology at al-Azhar University, graduating in 2000, and continued his studies in Spain, where he completed a Master’s degree in Contemporary Arab and Islamic Studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. His first novel,The Keymaker, won the National Novel Prize in 2011. His later novels were The World in a Cup (2012), The Sculptor’s Book (2013), for which he won the Sawiris Cultural Award in 2015, Elias (2014), considered by critics to be a novel which “founded a new eloquence in Arab literature,” and The Fortress of Dust (2017), a novel which became a finalist on the shortlist for the prestigious Arab Narrative Award bestowed by the United Arab Emirates. 

Abdelrahim Kamal (Sohag, 1971) is a novelist and screenwriter. His work seeks to build bridges between people in order to overcome their differences by delving deep into their roots, identity, history and traditions. He has had various short story collections published with a Sufi theme, as well as one play and four novels: The Madwoman (2002), Lengthy Shadows(2015), The Bouncer (2016) and The Children of Hura (2021). His facet as a film and television screenwriter has been recognized with several international awards. 

Ignacio Gómez de Liaño (Madrid, 1946) is a writer, philosopher, translator and university professor. Some have considered his production to be a cultural point of reference within the current panorama in the Spanish-speaking world. An experimental poet, he is a founding member of the Cooperativa de Producción Artística y Artesana. He took part as a coordinator of the Seminar of Automatic Generation of Plastic Forms at the Centro de Cálculo. A member of a noble family from Peñaranda de Bracamonte, his work on Salvador Dalí was praised by the painter himself. 

Lola Robles (Madrid, 1963) has a bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Philology, and is a writer and feminist and queer activist. She is one of the coordinators of the Women’s Library, as well as a founding partner. She has had several science fiction novels published, including La rosa de las nieblas (Rose in the Fog, 1999), El informe Monteverde (The Monteverde Report, 2005), Flores de metal (Metal Flowers, 2007), Yabarí (2017), El árbol de Sefarad (The Tree of Sefarad, 2018) and Más allá de Concordia (Beyond Concord, 2023). In 2020, she was given the Gabriel Award, granted by Pórtico, a Spanish Fantasy Writers , Science Fiction and Horror Association, for her personal career about non-realistic genres, especially female authors.
Two Egyptian Dystopias: The Sculptor’s Book and The Children of Hura