Sunday, December 8, 2019
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The Boy King’s curse

Harper, 544 pages, £27.99

The Boy King resurfaces again. The legend of Tutankhamun and the mythical curse has fascinated people for nearly a century. The passing of Archaeologist Howard Carter and others close to the excavation has intrigued many.

Sally Beauman uses this context and the actual discovery of the tomb as the spine of her latest venture “The Visitors”. Through the eyes of an 11-year-old, the intrigue and scandal that surrounded “the dig” community takes on a unique dimension.

It has an emotional appeal and transports you to the Valley of Kings, as you stroll past the Sphinx and take in the sights of the Nile.

Egypt in 1922 would have been a very different place to what it is today — a country burning in the embers of an Arab Spring. Interestingly, at that point, too, Egypt was going through a political transition. It was moving from the hands of the British to its own government. The rest is the history most of us are familiar with.

“The Visitors” is metaphorical in its layers, as the issue of antiquities’ ownership is put under the spotlight. With items from Tutankhamun’s tomb mysteriously surfacing in an English nobleman’s private collection, there is a reference to the accusation often made against the British of taking away much of their former colonies’ heritage and refusing to return it.

Don’t the Elgin marbles (from Greece) at the British Museum and the Kohinoor (from India) in the crown of the Queen of the United Kingdom beg the question of the ownership of what is ultimately world heritage?

The slice of history, peppered with politics and scandals, and the generous dash of fiction make “The Visitors” a fun read.