cover image The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution

Peter Hessler. Penguin Press, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-525-55956-6

New Yorker foreign correspondent Hessler (Oracle Bones) lived in Egypt during the months and years following the 2011 ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, and his account of learning Arabic, befriending a diverse array of characters, and gingerly probing the sore spots of Egyptian society is at once engrossing and illuminating. While Hessler lives in Cairo and much of the early action centers there, he ventures more widely than most foreigners in the country, and his reporting from sleepy upper Egyptian villages and remote Chinese development projects add complexity. Most of Hessler’s contacts get roughed up and imprisoned by the security services at one point or another, often for inscrutable reasons: “There was no point to the brutality—it served no larger purpose.” He returns frequently to the theme of internal tension and contradiction—that Egyptians “combined rigid tradition with ideas that could be surprisingly open-minded or nonconformist”—to contrast the brittle institutions of the state, such as courts, with the deep-seated social patterns and relationships that provide structure when the state is dysfunctional or ineffectual. Adroitly combining the color and pacing of travel writing and investigative journalism with the tools and insight of anthropological fieldwork and political theory, this stakes a strong claim to being the definitive book to emerge from the Egyptian revolution. [em](May) [/em]