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The Pyramid Paperback – May 26, 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage international ed edition (May 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700958
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,812,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on May 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I 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.
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Format: Paperback
Ismail Kadare takes a historical event of 2,600 years ago, the building of the Pyrmaid of Cheops, and creates an eery and suspense filled novel. There are intrigues and plots, and political purifications. Clearly, the monument is a testament to the human beings who built it, their spirit, creativity, their blood, sweat, and tears. However, is there some grand design, some master plan, something more, might it not represent the infinite, something eternal? Read the book and decide ... It all starts out innocently enough, the High Priest recommends a project, building a pyramid to the Pharoah who at first is opposed to the idea. Then, like any good monarch or president, he appoints a committee to study the matter. The research falls short of expectations. To the disappointment of all, or perhaps, just to this reader, it is discovered, the past pharoahs did not build the pyramids for any grand and glorious reason. They did it just because they were rich, had an overabundance of wealth, which they used up, that's all. At first the public is appalled, another pyramid is to be built, everyone ... everywhere is a buzz with, how much time, effort, and resources will it take? The plans, the building materials, the workmen, the supervisors, even diplomats of foreign countries, all are intrigued with this grand scheme. Eventually the psyche of the country is totally obsessed with nothing but this project. Many years go by, decades go by, as the project continues, and nears completion ... Kadare weaves his plot masterfully, capturing how this huge event affects the people of Egypt from all walks of life, from the peasant, to the merchant, to the highly educated scribes and aristocracy ... the parallels to modern life are astonishing.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The pharaoh Cheops decides to construct his own pyramid in order to suck all the wealth out of his country and prevent a higher living standard for his empire's population.
Indeed, as his counsellors whispered in his ears, when the living standard of a population rises, people become freer and more critical and endanger the dominance of the almighty powerful.
The construction of the edifice turns into a mass slaughtering. The pyramid becomes a symbol for endless human suffering and death under a despotic regime.
Of course, this book is a reflection on the political situation in Albania under the communist tyrant Enver Hoxha, but it is also a magisterial general evocation of a totalitarian ghost state, with only hidden agendas, invented complots, infighting, creation of incidents and rumours, and all that only in function of the mood and hallucinations of the tyrant.
The interrogations, tortures and executions for 'who ever knows' what reasons, create an atmosphere of terror in the whole country. The entire population becomes the plaything of the cynical and deadly machinations of the tyrant and his subservient clique.
This formidable novel is written in an unstoppable, passionate, fanatic flood of dashing prose.
A masterpiece.
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indefinite, incomprehensible, and awful." Herman Melville

In 1988 the Enver Hoxha Museum was opened to the public in Tirana, Albania. The Museum, which was designed by Hoxha's architect daughter Pranvera, was built as a lasting monument to the dictatorship of her father. The Museum, now known as the Albanian International Cultural Centre, is popularly known as "the Pyramid" because of its intentional structural resemblance to the great Pyramids of Egypt. Albania's "Pyramid" at one time contained pretty much everything Hoxha had ever touched or used during his career. A its center sat an imposing marble statue of Hoxha.

The Hoxha regime was marked by the brutal suppression of dissent through fear, torture, and purges created in response to patently absurd conspiracies against the state. This type of intimidation was patterned on the conduct of Hoxha's idol, Josef Stalin. The regime was also marked by a social and political isolation rivaled in the 2oth century only by that of North Korea. It was, at its worst, an isolated nation governed by intimidation and the fear that someone may denounce you for even the simplest transgression.

In 1988 the Albanian writer and poet began drafting his novel "The Pyramid". Set in ancient Egypt the novel tracks the construction of the great pyramid that would serve as the tomb of Egypt's ruler, Cheops. Although the young Cheops is reluctant to build the Pyramid he is convinced by his Viziers that the Pyramid is not useful simply as a tomb to prepare Cheops for the next life but as a means to control the lives of the people living under the Pharaoh's rule.
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