Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE BURIED: Life, Death and Revolution in Egypt

  • Written by  Jon Wright
  • Published in Books
THE BURIED: Life, Death and Revolution in Egypt
12 Jun
2019
by Peter Hessler • Profile Books • £25 (hardback/eBook)

October 2011 was a fascinating, if precarious time, for Peter Hessler and his family to set up home in Cairo. Since January of that year, the chaotic events of the Arab Spring had been transforming Egyptian politics and society. Hessler arrived during a lull in proceedings but, before too long, the protests reignited and the rivalries spiralled out of control. The corpses piled up, the shells of burned out BMWs returned, and coups were on the horizon.

Many have written on these dramatic events, but Hessler introduces unexpected prisms of enquiry and the intimate perspective of an endlessly curious observer of Egypt past and present. The tone is set from page one. We are introduced to American archaeologists continuing their work as revolution engulfed the nation: unearthing small bronze statues of Egyptian gods while the crowds grew, not so far away, in Tahrir Square. Before too long, with the archaeologists fled, looters ransacked the dig sights. When the scholars returned, they found cigarette butts and cellophane wrapping strewn around the place.

It is a strange juxtaposition but it helps Hessler make links between Egypt long ago and Egypt today. The ancient Egyptians had a complex understanding of time: with the linear and the cyclical in tension. Revolution stakes a claim for making things new, but it is as old as the hills.

The book achieves a great deal. It provides outstanding reportage of the Arab Spring but, better yet, are Hessler’s accounts of the people he encountered. We are introduced to Arabic teachers, shoe shine men, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and – the pick of the bunch – Sayyid, the local garbage collector. He and Hessler were fast friends and on his rounds he would discover precious manuscripts, rare coins, discarded diplomatic passports and even, on one occasion, a stash of fancy French wine.

It is a rare book that takes such a bold approach to Egyptian history and contemporary politics. One moment we are reading about 13th-century BCE temples; the next we are hearing about the bare nails on office walls that, until recently, had held up portraits of Mubarak. The potential to confuse the reader was enormous. Hessler entirely avoids it in this spirited, deeply insightful book.

Click here to buy The Buried via Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches

Books

by Dan Richards • Canongate • £19.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jeremy Purseglove • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Peter Hessler • Profile Books • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard • Little, Brown • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Robert Macfarlane • Hamish Hamilton • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Exhibitions

An exhibition at the V&A brings together innovations from across…

Books

Dead in the Water edited by Bruce Shoemakers and William…

Films

A brutally realistic film about a cruel and pointless confrontation

Books

by Mike Berners-Lee • Cambridge University Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Films

In our attempt to control the natural world, humans have…

Books

by Sudipta Sen • Yale University Press • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Jerry Brotton • Reaktion Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Colin Everard • IB Tauris • £30 (hardback)

Books

by Pete Brown • Particular Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Paul Dobraszczyk • Reaktion Books • £18 (hardback)

Books

by Parag Khanna • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20 (hardback)

Films

It makes you angry - extremely. It makes you sad…

Books

by Rory O’Grady • The Conrad Press • £18.99 (hardback)