Monthly Archives: August 2015

Wishful thinking of Egyptologists

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk

An interesting story appeared in the news the other day. Nicholas Reeves from the University of Arizona has been studying detailed scans of the inside of Tutankamun’s tomb, made by Factum Arte, which were produced in order to make a facsimile of the tomb. He believes that he has found on the images evidence that points to a hidden, sealed doorway within the tomb that may lead to an undiscovered chamber or series of chambers. All very exciting stuff. However, he also thinks that these chambers could house the remains of Nefertiti, the consort of Akenaten, and the woman who some believe may have been the mother of King Tut. I was slightly surprised when I first read this, as I thought she’d already been found in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings with a cache of other royal mummies, but after doing a bit of digging (no pun intended), it seems as though she was just one possible contender for these remains, and DNA testing carried out a few years back has disproved this and the maternity issue. However, I can’t help but feel that this suggestion is a bit premature, and is purely designed to provoke speculation, interest, media coverage, and increase the chance of permission being granted for work to take place in the tomb. Where is the evidence for this? It would be amazing if it was the case, but an undiscovered chamber of Tut-related tomb goods would be just as interesting and archaeologically valuable. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on this one, but would love to be proved wrong.

Bust of Nefertiti. Image: en.wikipedia.org

Bust of Nefertiti. Image: en.wikipedia.org

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My book collection: Ted Hughes

I mentioned a number of blog posts ago that I’ve been going on a bit of a Ted Hughes blitz in recent months. This is due to the fact that (despite what some other bloggers and literary fans may think of him) I adore his work. You may wonder why I don’t bother just getting the collected poems, collected poems for children and other such books, but there’s a few reasons for this:

  1. I already have a good few of his books, and so don’t want these to become redundant
  2. I much prefer reading individual volumes of poems, rather than finding collections in a collected works. They are so much more convenient- they can be taken on the bus and slipped into a bag or a pocket
  3. Ted Hughes’ Collected Poems is notoriously confusing to work through, as poems are rejiggled between collections and sequences to reflect the interesting publishing history of his texts.
  4. Hey- I like books, so the more the merrier.

I may still get the collected poems for the several hundred uncollected poems that this contains, but not at any time soon.

Here are the few (…) I’ve picked up over the last few months:

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  • Meet My Folks!
  • How the Whale Became and other stories
  • Nessie the Mannerless Monster
  • The Iron Man
  • Collected Plays for Children
  • Season Songs
  • Moon Whales
  • What is the Truth?
  • Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth
  • Flowers and Insects
  • The Cat and the Cuckoo
  • Tales of the Early World
  • The Iron Woman
  • The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales
  • Difficulties of a Bridegroom: Collected Short Stories
  • The Iron Wolf
  • Frank Wedekind – Spring Awakening
  • Jean Racine – Phedre

All of these were off ebay or Amazon, except two: The Iron Man was picked up from a charity shop for 70p, and has the original illustrations by George Adamson, rather than the Andrew Davidson illustrations that are used in the subsequent reissues (including the one I picked up last year); The Iron Woman (the companion reissue edition to The Iron Man) was found in The Last Bookshop when I went down to Oxford back in June for that conference.

A few other points. Difficulties of a Bridegroom actually contains all of the prose from the wonderful collection Wodwo, along with three other stories, and it’s these I bought it for, as I already have the other six in the parent book. It’s also a bit of a bugger to find online cheap. Moon Whales (in this edition, not the original American release), The Iron Wolf (a collection of animal poems written for children, collecting several shorter volumes) and Ffangs… are all gloriously illustrated by the fantastic Chris Riddell, and are worth getting for this point alone. The animal poems and Ffangs… are also quite good books. Moon Whales isn’t great, I must admit. I am not a big fan of when Hughes tried to rhyme, as much sounds too contrived and a bit clunky. Flowers and Insects is an interesting one, as it has never been properly reissued by Faber (except in the Collected Poems) and has never been issued in paperback. It contains some bloody awful watercolours by Leonard Baskin, whose otherwise magical line drawings graced the covers and pages of Crow, the first issue of Moon Whales, Gaudete, Cave Birds and Moortown. However, the layout of the book is also a shambles, with pictures being sliced, repasted oddly, printed more than once, or just generally reproduced badly.

Lastly, The Cat and the Cuckoo is not published by Faber, and was a nice find on ebay, but my copy is somewhat let down by the foxing on the endpages, which doesn’t make it an overly approachable volume. The poems are all (except one) in The Iron Wolf, but this edition is worth having just for the illustrations by R. J. Lloyd.

Now, for completeness I’m missing a number of his plays, as well as the individual 2011 reissues of the original versions of Remains of Elmet and River (before they were annoyingly rehashed for Three Books), but here is my Ted Hughes collection as it presently stands:

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Not a shelfie as such, but enough shelf porn to keep me going!

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Bus Reads 5: Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’

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I was interested to read this book, as a friend of mine from Uni is from the Czech Republic, and the novel is set in Czechoslovakia during the turbulent 1960s, so it allowed me to see something of her nation’s story as well as giving me an idea about where she is coming from on various issues. I had no preconceived notion about this work, so the book didn’t surpass or fall below expectations, but I was surprised just how much the book revolved around sex. Now, I don’t have an issue with this, but it would be nice to be warned when I’m reading it on a bus. I feel that people may be reading over my shoulder and think I’m reading something salacious. Anyway. I’ve read much worse since.

The way in which sex and love were presented through the thoughts and actions of the different characters was interesting and thought-provoking, with Tomas seeing it as nothing but another way of getting to know women better, and indeed being the only way to fully know their individual differences. This view can be understood somewhat in his profession as a surgeon, as this would precondition him to see people as the same, working in the same ways and as perhaps highly impersonal, whereas the act of sex allows him to see beyond the mechanics of the body into the personality of the individual. However, this view of sex and love as two distinct entities was something that seemed to run through the novel with all of the characters, and which begun to grate on me after a while. I can’t say that I condemned the characters for their actions and their views (that sounds a bit harsh), and indeed they were all likeable, believable figures, but I did see myself in moral and ideological opposition to them. For me, the two should be intimately intertwined, and so I was perhaps less able to empathise with the people in the novel than I have with other literary creations.

I did find the passages concerning the dog Karenin rather moving, though, which was a tad embarrassing on the bus, but Kundera did well to make Karenin as well-formed a character as the others in the text. Also, the sense of loneliness and desolation created worked well, and tinged much of the work with a quiet sadness that made it a poetic read in one respect. However, I think the biggest problem I had with the novel was that I missed the central philosophical tenets that underpinned the idea of ‘lightness’ and its opposition. Perhaps another read may be in order, in a quiet room with no distractions and a steaming mug of something rich. I feel that the book deserves a second chance, as I don’t think I’ve done it justice.

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