Review Of The Buried by Peter Hessler (China)

The New York Review of Books (October 10, 2019) carries a long review of The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution written by Ursula Lindsey who writes about culture, education, and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Egypt and Morocco and is now based in Amman, Jordan.

Lindsey writes, “The Buried promises to uncover an essential truth about Egypt, but this is a promise that it can’t keep. What it does deliver is original, richly layered, and often delightful reporting. Hessler has a sharp sense of humor, a gift for observation, a healthy skepticism, and a knack for using memorable characters and anecdotes to demonstrate larger truths.”

Lindsey goes onto write, towards the end of her long review, “Hessler’s book is neither an overview of the many factors that led to the Arab Spring, nor an account of how it was thwarted. And even when one disagrees with his conclusions, that disagreement can be thought-provoking. What carries one along, above all, is the quality of the writing. On almost every page there is a gleaming detail.”



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  • I highly recommend Hessler’s “River Town,” his account of his Peace Corps experience in Fuling, Sichuan Province. His observations are spot on, particularly those of his two Chinese language teachers as well as a local restaurant owner. Hessler has the knack for expressing his thoughts honestly so one can see him grow from the beginning of the first year to the end of his second year of service., a common experience of many PCVs, but difficult to capture on paper.

  • The only way to comment on Ursula Lindsey’s review of “The Buried” is to read the review.

    Here’s a link:

    Having read and reviewed “The Buried” myself, I wouldn’t characterize Hessler’s style so much as “reporting”. Rather it felt a lot like a traveler’s narrative of an extended stay, much like that of a Peace Corps volunteer. Hessler and his family lived in and partook of Egypt for five years. That was his window of time to live and experience life there and see things through his American eyes. In this, I think he succeeded admirably.

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