Mai Yamani

Wednesday reading —the Egyptians in their own words

What I've been reading

I read The Prince Who Knew His Fate, which is a picture book version of the ancient Egyptian Tale of the Doomed Prince, which is the titular reference in the Amelia Peabody book The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog. The surviving text of the story ends abruptly in the most suspensful possible place, so the author came up with her own ending, as well as illustrations all carefully adapted from pieces of Egyptian art. She chose to use Amarna art, which I like but not quite as much as some Egyptologists/art historians like Amarna art; on the whole I prefer the traditional style of Egyptian art, especially when it comes to the representation of the shapes of people's heads. I also find that I disagree quite strongly with many aspects of the ending that she invented. Why would the prince's dog attack him? Whyyyyy? But I really like how she laid out the history and explained all the choices that she made in the last few pages of the book. Also the original text of the story in hieroglyphs runs along the bottom of each page for the few people who can read it, which is very cool.

I finished The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, Stelae, Autobiographies, and Poetry. It is an excellent anthology filled with very interesting things. I posted a poem on my tumblr because it is so great.

I read Excavations at Deir el Bahri, 1911-1931, which is a collection of reports originally written for the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the archaeologist Herbert Winlock. I have long wanted to read this book because Elizabeth Peters specifically mentioned how delightfully it was written, and it really is. Wonderfully engaging, and filled with the most delightful little details, like when he explains that he was able to tell that the jars in a tomb had been hauled in four trips because the rope that the workers had used to do it was left in the tomb and it was big enough to accomodate a quarter of the total number at a time.

I read The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in Their Own Terms. I really wanted—and, thanks to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, was able to find—an unabridged translation, but I can definitely see why incomplete ones are easier to find. You would not even believe how many spells are wholly or partially devoted to ensuring that the Osiris _______ neither eats excrement nor drinks urine in the afterlife. It is not entirely clear to me why this was such a pressing concern. The worries about the evil snakes that could attack you there seem more reasonable to me.

What I'm reading now

I unwisely started reading The Widow's House, the new Dagger and the Coin book, and now I don't want to put it down but I should really be catching up on my novel.

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