The Pyramid Review

The Pyramid
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The Pyramid ReviewI have four Ismail Kadare books, and since the semester just ended, ...[I'm] going to try and read all four of them this summer. Kadare is an Albanian expatriate living in France, and from what I've heard about his books, the overarching theme is either the elevation of Albanian culture or criticism of the Albanian Communist Party. In this book, Kadare takes us back to ancient Egypt during the reign of Cheops, the pharaoh who built one of the Seven Wonders of the World. What we take for granted today as an impressive monument to ...[man's] ability to create, Kadare sees as a different sort of monument. Kadare uses the pyramid of Cheops as an allegory for the dehumanization of political power.
The upper echelons of Egypt become concerned when Cheops decides he does not want to build a pyramid. His advisors tell him that a pyramid is necessary in order to head off potential unrest amongst the populace. When Egypt is prosperous, the advisors explain, the people are not occupied and may start to have dangerous thoughts. A pyramid is a long, involved process that will keep all noses to the grindstone. What follows is a nightmarish vision of power run amok. All of Egypt becomes devoted to the pyramid, with every resource available poured into its construction. Workers die by the thousands cutting the rocks, transporting the stones, and building the pyramid. Thousands more are tortured and murdered for poor workmanship or because of conspiracies that arise during construction. Even the pharaoh starts to go nuts, as the pyramid becomes a reality.
Kadare masterfully details the dangers of power without limits. Arguably, the finest chapter is the one where time itself is reduced to numbered building stones. Workmen no longer think in terms of minutes, hours, or days; they think in terms of the 10,000th stone, and then stone 10,001, followed by stone 10,002. You get the idea. In short, the pyramid turns society and the very idea of nature upside down.
This is probably the best book you've never heard of. Of course, if you're reading this review, you have heard of Kadare and you're thinking about reading his work. I'm certainly looking forward to his other efforts, and the guy is still pumping them out so there won't be a shortage of his books anytime soon. Albania tends to get short shrift in the world; they should be very proud of Mr. Kadare. Although this book is quite short, it has a lot of depth. Recommended.The Pyramid Overview

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