The Pyramid
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The Pyramid [Paperback]

Ismail Kadare
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Albanian novelist Kadare (The Concert), living in political exile in France since 1991, spins cogent tales about the temptations and evils of totalitarian bureaucracy. His latest carries a universal message. Set in ancient Egypt-where Pharaoh Cheops oversees the construction of his tomb, the highest, most majestic pyramid ever, to be built by tens of thousands of his brainwashed subjects-the novel's hypnotically Kafkaesque narrative exposes the alienating, destructive effects of investing unquestioned power in a ruler, a state or a religion. The massive pyramid devours Egypt's resources and energies. Thousands die as it rises ever higher, and Cheops, depicted as a power-mad lunatic who craves adulation, periodically unleashes waves of arrests and torture of those falsely accused of sabotaging the project. Analogies to Stalin's paranoia, bloody purges and other terrors spring to mind, but the story takes on a broader meaning, demonstrating how a state or a ruling elite can mold public opinion so that its citizens willingly act against their own best interests. As the narrative closes, it leaps ahead centuries to display Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) erecting in central Asia a pyramid made of 70,000 skulls. Through this closing image, and the horrors that precede it, Kadare again proves himself a master of the political parable.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Cheops declares that he does not want a pyramid built to house him after death, but when the terrified priests argue that building the pyramids is an important task that has always kept the populace occupied and hence compliant, he relents. Soon the construction of the grandest pyramid of them all obssesses the people, who are at first elated but soon crushed by the reign of terror that results, as suspected saboteurs are tortured and men die daily while putting in place the huge stones. In a refreshingly clear, bold style, Kadare (The Concert, LJ 10/1/94) ably depicts the misuse of power and the hollow results for all involved. An effective political fable from one of Albania's few novelists, now living in France; for most collections.?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kadare imagines that Cheops, the twenty-sixth-century B.C. pharaoh responsible for the largest of Egypt's pyramids, at first contemplates not building the great structure. Dismayed, his ministers set out to convince him of the necessity of pyramids. They explain that pyramids really have "no connection with tombs or death" but are devices for social control; the enormous expense of materials, time, and labor involved in making pyramids keeps the people from the temptations of prosperity--worst among them, resistance to authority. Cheops capitulates to his ministers' argument, and the rest of Kadare's reconception of ancient history portrays pharaonic Egypt as a brutal totalitarianism highly suggestive of Kadare's homeland, Albania, under its late Communist regime. Shot through with elegantly minimalist wry humor and utterly excluding any hope for even benevolent tyranny, let alone democracy, this is a reverse dystopia; that is, it is a vision of a past rather than, as in such prime dystopias as Orwell's 1984 and Zamyatin's We, a future whose ostensible glories are totally compromised by political repression. Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The seventh novel to have appeared in English from the Albanian author (of, most notably, Chronicle in Stone, 1987, and The Concert, 1994) who is frequently mentioned as a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize. This is a parable, set in Egypt in the twenty-sixth century B.C. and after, about the building of the pyramids as a tactic employed by the state to involve its populace in a vast ongoing (and ``useless'') project designed to instill fear and suppress dissent. Kadare develops his core idea with dry funereal wit and trains a sardonic eye on the novel's only real character, the surly, megalomaniac young pharaoh Cheops. But the book devolves into disconnected (though chronological) mockery of the illogic and paranoia exhibited by ancient Egyptian--and, by extension, contemporary European--tyrannical regimes, and is further scuttled by a lumpy translation (at a second remove from the original) blemished by slangy anachronisms. A below-par performance by a world-class writer. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In the end, this book--which does not have (or need) a conventional plot, protagonist or conflict--adds up to a haunting meditation on the matter-of-fact brutality of political despotism.... -- The New York Times Book Review, Bruce Bawer

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

From the Inside Flap

From the Albanian writer who has been short-listed for the Nobel Prize comes a hypnotic narrative of ancient Egypt, a work that is at once a historical novel and an exploration of the horror of untrammeled state power. It is 2600 BC. The Pharaoh Cheops is inclined to forgo the construction of a pyramid in his honor, but his court sages hasten to persuade him otherwise. The pyramid, they tell him, is not a tomb but a paradox: it keeps the Egyptian people content by oppressing them utterly. The pyramid is the pillar that holds power aloft. If it wavers, everything collapses.

And so the greatest pyramid ever begins to rise. It is a monument that crushes dozens of men with the placing of each of its tens of thousands of stones. It is the subject of real and imaginary conspiracies that necessitate ruthless purges and fantastic tortures. It is a monster that will consume all Egypt before it swallows the body of Cheops himself. As told by Ismail Kadare, The Pyramid is a tour de force of Kafkaesque paranoia and Orwellian political prophecy.

"A haunting meditation on the matter-of-fact brutality of political despotism." - The New York Times Book Review
"Kadare's prose glimmers with the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez." - Los Angeles Times Book Review
"One of the most compelling novelists now writing in any language." - Wall Street Journal

About the Author

ISMAIL KADARE, born in 1936 in the mountain town of Gjirokaster, near the Greek border, is Albania's best-known poet and novelist. Since the appearance of The General of the Dead Army in 1965, Kadare has published scores of stories and novels that make up a panorama of Albanian history linked by a constant meditation on the nature and human consequences of dictatorship. "Dictatorship and authentic literature are incompatible," he wrote. "The writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship." His works brought him into frequent conflict with the authorities from 1945 to 1985. In 1990 he sought political asylum in France, and now divides his time between Paris and Tirana. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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