So the mummy’s curse killed Sigmund Freud, not some mundane old cancer. Who knew?
It’s tempting to read this breathless tale, a work of Egyptology gone weirdly awry, as a parody of the buried treasures/hidden secrets subgenre of pop archaeology so brilliantly exploited in the old (and new) Mummy movies: Bad archaeologist does bad things and is punished for his crimes, usually by the creature that dwells in the tomb he’s uncovered. In O’Farrell’s recounting, told with utter seriousness, the bad archaeologist is none other than the great Howard Carter, who with his patron and sometime ally Lord Carnarvon discovered the tomb of the unfortunate pharaoh Tutankhamun back in 1923 and then proceeded to drop dead, along with most other people connected with their expedition, a sequence of events that gave rise to the legend of the “mummy’s curse.” (Breathe a little centuries-old tomb dust, and chances are you won’t feel too hot yourself.) These deaths weren’t accidental, O’Farrell asserts. He holds that Carter and Carnarvon “manipulated the media and the politicians of the world with an adroitness that would be the envy of any modern press baron or spin doctor, but, in the course of their robbery”—for so O’Farrell holds their discovery was—“which took them nearly ten years to pull off, they uncovered a secret so potentially explosive that even they didn’t know how to exploit it.” And what was that secret? Well, it would spoil O’Farrell’s fun to reveal too much; suffice it to say that taking his thesis seriously involves a wholesale rewriting of Old and even New Testament history, one that turns Akenhaten into Moses and makes Old King Tut a descendant of Abraham—a neat genealogical trick, but offered without a shred of credible evidence, in keeping with the author’s overall tenor.
Slipshod, ill argued, and just weird enough to almost be interesting: a loopy work that trained Egyptologists won’t bother opening, but that may appeal to the UFO-abduction/cloned-baby set.