AN EGYPTIAN JOURNAL by William Gelding


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The journey up the Nile has fascinated travelers for centuries and Gelding, immersed in the literature and romance of intrepid explorers and scholars, came to the great trip lively and excited. He and his wife endured the vexations of the land, the wayward amiability of his crew and found the journey vastly different than he had imagined it would be, but challenging in every respect. Renting an ancient cabin cruiser and hiring a crew of five in Cairo, he soon found what would be the real fascination of his Egyptian sojourn--not the usual tourist attractions, but the subtleties of the land, the water and the people. The traffic on the river and its changeable nature, the mists at dawn, the haphazard life on board, the breakdowns and irrationalities form a pattern of life that, in his retelling, insidiously enthralls. Despite his reservations about his ""shyness"" and the psychic distance in time and spirit between himself, an aging (72), upper-class Englishman speaking no Arabic, and the natives, the minutiae of his days have a soothing charm. There is a simple and reassuring lilt to his writing. It is as if the river itself had taken a hand in the journal and given us a narrative in which the relationships of the travelers to one another and the ancient culture are riveting in a way that is profound yet without pretense. The Nile was more than Golding thought it would be once he took the river with its feluccas, the fertile land and the wastes beyond for what they were--a nature study. The ruins and the papyri writers are blended into the author's historic lore until the reader is brought to a reality quite different from that experienced by tourists on the luxury craft that ply the mighty river. Haunting, wise and frank, this book is an enjoyable addenda to earlier Nilotic tales, and a must for aficionados of the land of the Pharaohs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Faber & Faber