Rated: how Tutankhamun shaped the century
by Christina Riggs (PublicAffairs, Feb 1)
On November 26, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter pierced a small opening in the Valley of the Kings of Egypt that had been closed for more than three millennia and peeked in candlelight. “Do you see anything?” asked his patron George Herbert, 5th Count of Carnarvon. “Yes, wonderful things.” At least that’s how the familiar notion of the most iconic moment in the history of archeology, the discovery of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb a century ago, runs.
As Riggs, a former Egyptologist and museum curator who is as interested in the history of his former profession as ancient civilization, notes, the story of King Tut’s discovery and its enduring consequences is as mythical as ancient Egypt. himself. Tutanhamon was no more than 19 years old when he died of unknown causes – despite numerous claims to the contrary on the Internet – in the 14th century his mother was a minor ruler and in the 20th century his mother’s highest figure. He, Carter, and Carnarvon together form a narrative, writes Riggs, who established “several things we take for granted,” from mummy films and mummy cavities to the UNESCO World Heritage Program to blockbuster exhibitions. And celebrity archaeologists, especially fictional: neither Tuti nor Indiana Jones.
Riggs has no loss. “The archaeological heroes of film plots and television documentaries come from excavators whose work was an integral part of Western colonialism and the construction of the empire in the early 19th and early 20th centuries, systems that relied on and through racism,” he writes.
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Museums around the world – most notably GEM, the giant and exquisite Great Egyptian Museum, which will soon be completed by November next year – mark Tuti’s 100th anniversary, focusing on the events of 1922 and the most extraordinary of the 5,600 objects found in his grave. But Riggs has a completely different focus in his eye-opening and compelling book. Carter’s candlelight gaze and the colossal 14-meter-high pharaoh Ramses handing over the Great Statue to GEM exactly seven years after the Arab Spring protests began – to draw media attention (and capitalism) to draw media attention to the anniversary. ) constantly dominated Egyptology. He writes that they were crucial in making Tut more famous than Ramses, although Carnarvon’s death in April 1923 as a result of a mosquito bite in a hotel room in Cairo became a curse on the mummy in pop culture.
After a detailed dive into Egypt’s contribution to Carter’s British triumph and Tut’s first outbreak in Western Jazz, Riggs explores Pharaoh’s second career as a cultural or political ambassador in the 1960s. Pharaoh was an indispensable branch of UN culture for UNESCO in an effort to prevent Nubian temples from sinking under the backwaters of the Aswan High Dam.
Items from his tomb were circulated in the United States and Canada to draw attention to the crisis, and then throughout Japan to raise the money needed to raise temples. Over the next decade, American public funding used Tuti as an opportunity to present Egypt, a key oil-rich Middle East, as a “friendly and worthy ally,” Riggs said. But by the end of the 70s, when Treasures of Tutankhamun ended his North American tour with a two-month stay in Toronto – a glamorous exhibition still remembered in the city – the profits went to Egyptian exhibits and support for Egyptian archeology.
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After the 100th birthday, more tours are coming, but Riggs is more interested in the opportunities that Egyptian children have better access to the exhibition through GEM to decolonize Egyptology. After all, it was the North American tour of the 1970s that brought Tuti to the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old schoolgirl in Ohio in 1983 and put Riggs on a career that led to Rated.
The Genesis Machine: Our Efforts to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology
Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel (PublicAffairs, Feb 15)
This powerful book on what the authors call an unstoppable “new industrial evolution” is as rooted in human longing as in the advances in science painted by the miscarriages of the American Web and the fertility problems of Hessel himself in Canada. Technology is currently at the forefront of wholesale genetic transcription and the potential for reducing individual suffering is spectacular. The pitfalls, especially in the imminent and perhaps inevitable gap between genetically developed humans and other humans, are great. The indisputable argument of the authors is that the genie is out of the bottle and humanity must be ready for what is to come.
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The hero of our time
by Naben Ruthnum (McClelland & Stewart, Jan 11)
The main character, whose main redemptive feature is the tendency to make a sharp and cruel observation about himself, makes a novel with a built-in mound to climb into. Ruthnum can do it spectacularly. Osman Shah’s second talent – cunning at machiavelli level – turns her struggle with the soulless Olivia Robertson into a wildly funny satire of today’s diversity policy.
Distant land: 200 years of murder, mania and rebellion in the South Pacific
by Brandon Presser (PublicAffairs, Mar 8)
In 1790, nine British rebels and their Tahitian companions arrived on the uninhabited island of Pitcairn, where 48 of their descendants still live. The riot on board the Royal Navy’s Bounty itself is famous, but it is a consequence – a microcosm of violent colonial and sexual exploitation that killed most rebels in three years – and its lasting consequences make Presser’s book so gripping.
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Stray dogs: stories
by Rawi Hage (Knopf Canada, March 1)
These are stray people, like the American-educated Jordanian in Tokyo, who is actually in abundance in this great collection. Perfect in a genre suited to Hage’s elliptical and hypnotic style, the acclaimed Montreal novelist moves his activities into a world that now tends to close both boundaries and thoughts, where his characters – strangers in foreign lands – experience an increasing setback from the hosts.
The sea of peace
by Emily St. John Mandel (HarperCollins, Apr 19)
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There are signs, from tiny to expansive, that instantly identify Emily St. John Mandel’s novel. There are recurring characters (appearing in Vincent’s 2020 film The Glass Hotel), someone named after the author (here’s Edwin St. John St. Andrew) and Vancouver Island (where St. John Mandel was born and raised) plays a role. There are also a number of characters in the polyphonic story where the big and small figures are minimal.
Most drift a lot physically, emotionally, and temporally, thinking about how they got here and there. And whatever and whenever the device – St. John Mandel’s has expanded steadily since the 2014 film Station Eleven, set in the Great Lakes region – both the characters and the author refuse to accept what appears to be an indisputable coincidence in life. Or more precisely, randomness matters.
St. John Mandel’s latest novel offers it all at a hugely accelerated level. The scenes move between the colonies of the Earth and its Moon – one located on the peaceful sea of the Moon. There is a literal journey, both literally and in memory, from the years 1912 to the beginning of the 25th century, during which a Time Institute agent meets a long-dead novelist whose most popular work gave him the name his agent’s mother gave him.
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Unless, of course, a casual encounter with a foreign writer gave that name in the first place. (Is it, Peace as the sea passes, once in the first place in human relations?) Society here is not a plague dystopia station at Eleven, but St. John Mandel, who wrote the last novel years before COVID. -19, has long focused on the inevitability of pandemics, closures and psychological damage. Several plagues, including Ebola X and SARS 12, echo Tranquility over five centuries.
However, the study of the randomness of the author’s life goes beyond the predicted waves of mass death. As the characters begin to intersect in space and time, the possibility that the simulation hypothesis – the idea that reality is just an unimaginably complex computer simulation – will come true will depress some of the characters, while others will provoke or pretend to be protective indifference. The main question of this luminous novel is whether the life lived in the simulation is still a meaningful life.
This article will be published in the January 2022 issue Maclean’s magazine entitled “Further reading”. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.