A Saucy Saturday for Those Egyptologically Inclined
I recently read two thoroughly excellent books pertaining to Egyptology and, happily for our dear readers, neither of them was remotely musty, fusty or otherwise academic. Rather, they both catered to the general public’s continuing fascination with ancient Egypt and a little bit to the more current fad of loving someone who also happens to be undead (see Twilight, True Blood, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Saucy!
The first was The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips (more famously author of Prague). The book tells a few stories, all focused on Egyptologist Ralph Trilipush and his subject, the XIII-Dynasty pharaoh, Atum-hadu (aka: “Atum-Is-Aroused,” and also a rather saucy character who is apt to write lengthy erotic poetry about himself). The story itself is nothing particularly mind-blowing, but the form and the way in which Phillips tells the story absolutely is. The book has no subdivisions or chapters of any kind and is mainly told by three different narrators of varying levels of reliability, all of whom are differentiated solely by font. Because none of the three narrators were on-hand for all the action of the book, discovering and then piecing together the entirety of the story is left mostly to the reader. The reader is also trusted with the task of realizing the fallibility of the different narrators and correctly choosing the truths amid many false retellings, false memories and falsified facts. It was a revelation to me to see this kind of trust placed in the reader by an author and it was made the book absolutely remarkable.
The second was a graphic novel by the French duo of Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert called The Professor’s Daughter. This absolutely charming tale relates the story of a Victorian Egyptologist daughter, Lillian, and the love of her life, Imhotep IV, a reanimated mummy her father the Egyptologist discovered during one of his many excavations. As if the premise were not enough to completely pique your curiosity and make you immediately love this book, any number of other things would, including the story taking place in Victorian London, extremely good writing, beautiful watercolor illustrations by Guilbert, and a cameo by Queen Victoria herself. The writing is witty (“And are you going to marry her?” “I don’t know. Maybe her father won’t agree to it.” “Why not?” “Well, I’m dead and it’s simply not done.”) and complements the beautiful watercolors perfectly. This is a book that is a joy to quickly read and also to then go back over again and again to discover new beauties and details of the illustrations.