Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This Glittering Tour de Force

I’m sure this is wrong. Why is it also so moving?
“The creativity of Egyptian civilization seemed, in the end, strangely to miscarry. Colossal resources of labour were massed under the direction of outstanding civil servants, but only to set up the greatest tombstones the world has ever seen. Craftsmanship of exquisite quality was employed, but to make grave-goods. A highly literate elite utilizing a complex and subtle language and possessing, in papyrus, a material of unsurpassed convenience, deployed them copiously in texts and inscriptions, but left to humanity no great philosophical or religious idea. It is difficult not to sense an ultimate sterility, a nothingness, at the heart of this glittering tour de force. Only its sheer staying-power remains amazing.”

J.M. Roberts, A Short History of the World


Phanero Noemikon said...

The last line makes me think this guy would be the equivalent of a baseball cap wearer.

Just the Khepera or dung beetle / sun equation in Egyptian mythology has more natural poetic meaning
and beauty than the xtian gabrito puppet, though to be honest, the entirety of the earth is rather humble and rustic.

It's a pretty dry old biscuit.
I mean considering the total mass
of even the solar system.

Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

Holy Thanatos, Rodney!

It's ultra-goth.

konrad said...

because it sounds ominous

rodney k said...

Truth be told, on off days I think this statement could apply to us.

On good days, I like chuckling at the port-and-pipesmoke ambience a dismissal like this requires (Roberts was, indeed, an Oxford don, so knew a thing or two about sterility and staying-power.)

Lanny, this is one of your best comments, ever. You've turned these weird little spaces into Cornell boxes.

Phanero Noemikon said...

I must admit I lfted the Jesus / Gabrito iconological echo from Jodorowsky's film _Holy Mountain_,
but its the sound of the word


with Gab and [w]rit[oe]

and the way the goat
as both tragus and scape-goat
is really like a major international crossroads of irony

Even bush was reading
my baby goat upside down
or whatever when 911 happened.

It's actually sort of spooky
that there could be enough

actual intelligence left in the specie
that "the conspiracy"
would actually be

an iconological one
and a syncretic one at that.

It boggles.

Stanley Bishop Burhans said...

It's that he's projecting his own sterility onto the object of his interest, and that's such an absolute gesture--potentially anything could seem equally sterile to him.

So it's moving because it's subjectivity triumphing, unreasonably, over everything that should put doofus in awe.

Drew said...


Yea, I do hear a sigh of autobiographical resonance behind the stock euro-centric historical anxiety here. Gotta wonder what the guy made of Black Athena, right?

I mean Herodotus was always on about the Egyptian origins of Greek culture, right?

Phanero Noemikon said...

I'm never sure about these things but it does seem as if the column and capital was an egyptian invention, but what i find more interesting is that their column started out as bundles of reeds, a practice which is still carried out in the building of floating mudhifs in Southern Iraq as detailed in Wilfred Thesiger's _The Marsh Arabs_ about the Madan people. Those reed bundles became stylized in stone, and in a sense inverted by the Greeks.

You also find Minoan painting in some Egyptian ruins.

I always liked things like the Garamantians
and their deep saharan irrigation system still in use in part today.