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the Complete Review
the complete review - prose


The Last of the Egyptians

Gérard Macé

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Title: The Last of the Egyptians
Author: Gérard Macé
Genre: Prose
Written: 1988 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 78 pages
Original in: French
Availability: via Small Press Distribution - US
Le dernier des Égyptiens - Canada
Le dernier des Égyptiens - France
L'ultimo degli egiziani - Italia
  • French title: Le dernier des Égyptiens
  • Translated by Brian Evenson

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Our Assessment:

B : brief, intriguing variations in prose on Jean-François Champollion

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Last of the Egyptians collects several variations in prose -- of a poetic-essayistic sort -- on Jean-François Champollion, famous for being to first to decipher the Rosetta Stone and figure out the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs. As the title suggests, Macé has Champollion closely identify with the works of James Fenimore Cooper; as he sees it, the Indians' ways of seeing helped inspire Champollion to decipher the written ancient Egyptian language:

     In reading, signs are given, but in nature the difficulty starts with the noticing of the clues, and the Indian thus resembles the decipherer. One scrutinizes a footprint like one scrutinizes a written stone or a fragment of a tablet, with a lot of method and a little luck, passing the forest through a fine-toothed comb, raising each leaf and all branches like Hawkeye and the Mohicans
       Macé's pieces are neither straightforward biography nor purely essayistic analysis; there's both poetry and invention to this prose as well. They are homages to Champollion, and readings of his life and work; they are also more generally readings, in considering language and decipherment.
       The linguistic genius Champollion, who died at the relatively young age of forty-one, and his accomplishments are sufficiently interesting subjects that it's hard to imagine any account or discussion of them being boring. Macé's creative approach, while somewhat detached, offers an appealing and thoughtful overview of the man and what he did in a very limited space; if inadequate as an introduction, it nevertheless serves very well as further reading and interpretation, going beyond dry history and simple facts. A meditation (in variations) on reading and writing, too, The Last of the Egyptians is an unusual but quite appealing text.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 October 2011

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The Last of the Egyptians: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Gérard Macé was born in 1946.

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© 2011-2012 the complete review

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