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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pyramid Texts

Gamal al-Ghitani

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To purchase Pyramid Texts

Title: Pyramid Texts
Author: Gamal al-Ghitani
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1994 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Pyramid Texts - US
Pyramid Texts - UK
Pyramid Texts - Canada
Pyramides - France
Pyramiden - Deutschland
  • Translated by Humphrey Davies

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing pyramid-focussed fiction, but with a strong mystical feel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 1/2001 Martine Silber
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 22/7/2006 Stefan Weidner

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The complete review's Review:

       Pyramid Texts is literally a pyramid of texts: the book (novel ? story collection ?) consists of fourteen texts that grow progressively shorter, the last few only a sentence or a few words long, culminating in the final one that offers: "Nothing. Nothing. Nothing." Al-Ghitani builds his way to this point by also moving from more straightforward narrative to more mystical impressions and evocations.
       There are several 'stories' among the texts, but even among these al-Ghitani's approach is rarely straightforward narrative. The first text, Anticipation, is fairly straightforward, but presented in short bits, each separated by some words of (not necessarily obviously related) wisdom, such as: "Time, and the law of the appointed term, dictate that what was distant at the beginning will become close". The last of these is: "Each path leads inevitably to another", and this is a book full of such paths. The pyramids are always the focus. In some of the texts the paths are literally on the pyramids: one evocatively describes the experts who climb the structures, knowing the exact paths that one has to take, while in another a group enters the labyrinth-like interior of a pyramid. But even for those at some distance, in Cairo proper, it's always the same: "The pyramids were always with him."
       Al-Ghitani offers a many-toned paean to the pyramids, effectively conveying their grandeur and mystery. Rather than detailed realistic description he takes a more mystical approach. The group that enters the pyramids, for example, diminishes in size (though they hardly notice) until the experience is entirely an individual one -- a story that easily stands on its own. In Realization the Caliph orders measurements taken of the pyramid -- and after much work Ibn al-Shihna the Measurer has to report the apparent absurdity that:

"The width at the mid-point is equal to that at its base. Neither more nor less. The length of each side is four hundred spans. My lord, there is no slope and no decrease."
       But for al-Ghitani the pyramids are inherently unknowable: even 'measuring' them in any traditional sense is pointless. Such mysticism doesn't always translate well, but comes across fairly effectively here: Ghitani offers enough good twists and ideas that it doesn't sound too hokey (most of the time). Still, this (dominant) aspect of the book may not appeal to those who don't have the patience for this sort of thing. Those who do have the patience are, however, rewarded by a pretty decent spin of ideas and concepts.
       One can't help but feel that something -- a certain feel -- is lost in translation, but Pyramid Texts works quite well in translation too. And there are many bits that impress -- such as the opening to Annihilation, a typical example of the feel and presentation and subtlety of the book:
     ... Of an old family, much noted, mentioned in manuscripts that have yet to be printed.
       Certainly of interest.

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Pyramid Texts: Reviews: Gamal al-Ghitani: Other books by Gamal al-Ghitani under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian author Gamal al-Ghitani (جمال الغيطانى‎) was born in 1945.

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© 2007-2010 the complete review

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