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Friday, 29 August 2014

BOOKS: The Nile

I was kindly sent an uncorrected proof of The Nile by Toby Wilkinson, the famous Egyptologist, now a Cambridge don. 
The book is a remarkable feat of scholarship, he is as at home in Pharaonic Egypt as he is in Tahrir Square. 

I declare an interest! Please see my 'retour d'Egypte' bookplate with Pyramids in the distance. I am an Alexandrine Greek, my name carved in Greek on an ancient Egyptian peristyle with hieroglyphics at the base. 
The Falcon God, Horus, keeps guard. On the waters of the Nile sails a felucca, and in the distance, on a cluster of clouds, the Pyramids of Giza. 
The Nile is published by Bloomsbury in the UK, and to be published by Knopf in the USA. 
Wilkinson tells of Herodotus' visit to Egypt in the fifth century BC, Pliny the Elder describing the Sphinx "while Homer had written of the fabled 'Hundred-gated Thebes"

X Akhenaten - in his hymn to the sun god in the 14th Century BC "An inundation from the sky for foreigners... 

for Egypt the inundation that comes from the Underworld". 

Today: It is the city and region of Aswan that are the source of Egypt's water, and hence, the source of all its life. Is the High Dam killing Egypt? All is examined and explained. 

There is talk of Obelisks, 29 in all, in places such as the Place de la Concorde in Paris, in New York, and in London. 

Elephantine Island - its name derived as an emporium for the Ivory trade. 'The perfect place to control the movements of goods and people from Nubia and Egypt'. 

Jews had been living in the Cataract region for at least 200 years when a Persian Army conquered Egypt in 525 BC.

Since the 1990's, some four million illegal immigrants have poured, into Egypt, 'from Sudan, yet the Egyptian police who were ordered to round them up and deport them on planes to Khartoum generally turn a blind eye' 

Fascinating about Robert Mond's excavation of Ancient Armant and, of course, Lord Carnarvon and the best artist of Pharaonic ruins, David Roberts. 

Alexander the GREAT... A man convinced of his own divine origins... Egypt held a special appeal. 

Naguda sophisticated and unexpected - a sight in the west bank of the Nile in central Egypt - a civilisation of the early and middle parts of the Fourth Millenium BC. 

Nag  Hamudin manuscripts, today known as gnostics - these were buried in the 4th Century AD in the desert to escape destruction from the nascent coptic religion. They were discovered nearly 1600 years later. 

Hadrian and his beautiful Bithynian lover, who drowned in the Nile and became a cult, a God no less, with Antinopolouis named after him. 

Desert Fathers and much, much more, and legend, reality, history, romance, interwoven with hard facts... '1600 years after the last Hieroglyph was carved, the sacred words of ancient egypt are uttered, even if the religion they once described has long vanished. Coptic Priests declaim "Pnoute" - God - just as they did in the days of the Pharaohs'.

Mohammed Moses, now disgraced, was the first elected leader in Egypt in 3000 years. 

The Nile, is an enchanting book that makes light of the author's scholarship, persistence and erudition

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


A small Smoking Room at Eldon. 
The walls in faux bois by Tony Alcock, the JS Fireplace based on a Baroque chimney in Kensington Palace, carved and gilded by Anthony Ley. The handsome grate by Jesse Gibilaro.
Carpet by John Stefanidis. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

TRAVEL: Baden Baden

This year, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Easter coincided, so I was able to crack coloured eggs in time honoured fashion in Baden Baden - very unspoilt, charming villas, a long river divides the town its bed paved in stone. Pretty wrought iron bridges cross the river, leading to side streets or to gardens, enchantingly civilised, beautifully kept, the alley's have every variety of trees as varied as in any arboretum. There is a sparkly new Museum Frieder Burda, designed by Richard Meier, and since last year an Easter Festival to rival Salzburg (see my entry of 12/06/2014)

The Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle its conductor forsook Salzburg and is now adored in Germany. 

The first day was Bach: St. John's Passion - masterful, compassionate and emotional.

The second day we had:

- Ligetti - Atmosphères 
- Wagner - Introduction to Lohengrin
- Brahms - Violin Concerto, Op. 77
- Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps, 
played by the now mature, peerless and 
beautiful Anne-Sophie Mutter. 

The third day, for reasons I failed to fathom, Ligeti, Wagner, Stravinsky again, and Elgar - Concert for Violoncello and Orchestra 85. The violoncello played by Sol Gabetta, Argentinian, pretty and stylish with self-conscious smiles at the travelling camera, she delighted the senses but not like Jacqueline du Pré, whose playing I worship & revere - it is hard to believe she died in 1987. 

The fourth day was Puccini: Manon Lescaut, set in the 1940's in occupied France, directed by Richard Eyre - glorious. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

COMMENT: Letter from Moscow - Watching the Eclipse

In the August 11th issue of the New Yorker, its editor, David Remnick, has written a remarkable article 'Watching the Eclipse' is profound, cogent and honed journalism - a trenchant summary of how Russia perceives the West - 
Putin's 'Vision of a Eurasian Russian imperium, fending off Western decay'. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

COMMENT: A Fishless Sea

Summer Folk can be do-gooders and to some effect but ultimately it is the local population, local government, central government and the EU who have to implement positive changes to the environment. 

Money is being raised for the hospital, including a serum for snake bites - last year a French woman died as a result of there being no antidote on the island. 


The Water Exhibition is supported, invented and created by the archaeologist Anne McCabe and the world renowned marine biologist Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara. 

This is the scandal of a neglected, non-functioning sewage system, and a fishless sea with underwater ecosystems gone to hell. 

I no longer eat FISH. 

(see my entry & Selfridge's campaign of 21/06/2011)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

BOOKS: Andre Aciman & Jhumpa Lahiri

Andre Aciman Harvard Square

An Alexandrine Jew and a Berber in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Funny & touching, about exile. 

A 'companion' novel - The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Bengalis in Calcutta and on Rhode Island, USA. Cultural clashes again about exile and the human condition.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Monday, 4 August 2014

BOOKS/PEOPLE: Penelope Fitzgerald

I declare a crush on Penelope Fitzgerald!

I was mightily impressed by her book 'The Blue Flower' - a faultless evocation of Germany in the last decades of the 18th Century - the life of Fritz von Hardenberg, the poet Novalis.

This extraordinary woman, born a Knox, was as English as can be yet not. Her prose has been described as limpid, her style as piquant, sad, fastidious and funny, clever and engaging. 

I have now read 'Innocence' - who else has ever portrayed Florentines so acutely? And captured the atmosphere of the nascent burgeoning economy in the 1950's, known in Italy as 'Il Boom'? In this novel what is unsaid is as important as what is written. 

I devoured Hermione Lee's vivid biography, published in 2013.

Throughout Penelope Fitzgerald's life the question was asked, "How is it done?” A clue might be a favourite book of the authors 'Le Grand Meaulnes' by Alain Fournier, a victim in the first year of the First World War aged 28 - what is unsaid is the essence of this novel whose last line confirms the authors intent. 

I shall now read every tome and every scrap Penelope Fitzgerald has ever written!