East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Cursed by the pharaohs

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md22104412845I tried.
No really, I tried.
I took the afternoon off, a nice bowl of tea, and I attacked Curse of the Pharaohs, the book about Tutankhamen’s curse I had found at a free giveaway a few months back – you’ll remember I posted about it.

Considering I am currently sketching an Egypt-related project – plus of course the Aculeo & Amunet and Contubernium stories, and the idea of re-playing Masks of Nyarlathotep… all this considered, a nice afternoon reading about Egyptian curses looked like a nice way to have fun and do research at the same time.

But what the heck…

The Vandenberg book is actually quite good, on paper.
After a somewhat fictionalized start – that had duped me into believing this was a novel – the book veers into psaeudo-scientific, paranormal/occult/weird science territory, taking the idea of the curse at face value, and digging in with a vengeance.

The book is from 1973, remember, and that was an age in which popular culture got it bad for fringe science – pyramids, UFOs, ancient astronauts and mysterious archaeology.
Peter Kolosimo was a champion and a best seller writer at the time, and I have a lot of his books here in a box somewhere. Philipp Vandenberg was writing in the same vein, and he had a whale of a subject – the curse of Tutankhamen no less.

Chariots_Of_The_GodsAnd the book really is a one-stop compendium of every psaeudo-scientific research on the subject of the curse. It lists spurious research and unconfirmed news bits, gets its dates wrong and its pharaohs mixed, and in general is everything you’d expect to find on the same shelf with Chariots of the Gods? and World out of time.

Boy would I have loved this book when I was a kid!
But I am no longer a kid, and the blatant inaccuracies grate on my nerves almost as much as the bad translation and frequent typos.
In the end, I jumped the chapter about causality and statistics – insufferable, for someone that used to work with stats – and basically browsed the content, making a note of where’s what for future reference.
804466Because really, this is a one-stop compendium of 40-odd years old pop Egyptology, and a great resource for writing supernatural fiction, but as a reading book… I tried, I swear I tried, but I can’t make it.

For the rest, I’ll keep close at hand the old, surpassed but fun Egyptian Magic by E.A. Wallis Budge, and Budge’s Mummy: a Handbook, together with two recent acquisitions, Magic in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch, and Morris L. Bierbier’s Historical Dictionary of Egypt.

It’s a pity, really, for Vanderberg’s volume – but apparently I’m past the age of spurious data and blatant manipulation.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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