10 July, 2010

Research Readings for July 2010

It's raining today (finally) and so the perfect day to stay in and do a little research on my latest novel project: a bit of horreur that begins, but does not end, in Egypt during the French occupation.

Nina Burleigh's excellent book Mirage--Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt is more or less indefinitely checked out to me thanks to my good sense at having married the librarian. Mirage follows the French occupation from the point of view of the cent-cinquante savants General Bonaparte brought with him on his attempt to wrest the East and India from England. It's a fascinating window into Napoleon's character: at 28 years of age, he was already padding his C.V. as a new-model emperor of the Enlightenment.

These French scientists made the first comprehensive descriptions of Egypt for European audiences, and touched off a fascination for all thing Phaoronic that continues to this day. (shout-out to fellow-blogger Libbie Hawker, who specializes in the 18th dynasty)

Next in the stack, arriving this week from Amazon (see, even the librarian's husband must often buy a book) is a translation of a 19th century Arab's chronicle of the invasion. The translation is by Shmuel Moreh, a noted scholar whose work I've used before in research for Saint Mark's Body. I haven't gotten very far in this, but my favorite bit so far is when Al-Jabarti dissects bad Arabic grammar in one of Napoleon's proclamations:

"His [Bonaparte's] statement bta al-Mamalik (belonging to the Mamluks) is despicable and a banal and trite word. The word mutma'in should be mutma'inan because it is hal (circumstantial expression) and converting it to the nominative (raf) incorrectly is an indication of their state, and their significance. May God hurry misfortune and punishment upon them, may He strike their tongues with dumbness, may He scatter their hosts, and disperse them, confound their intelligence, and cause their breath to cease."

Apparently, according to Al-Jabarti, Allah should not be so merciful or compassionate when it comes to the declension of nouns. It seems quite just to me for a speaker of perfect French (which I am not, as any Francophone will instantly tell you) to be taken to task like this.

And of course there is the Historical Novel Review, my first issue since joining HNS. I didn't know quite what to expect from this mag: I joined up simply because I knew so many good authors who are members, like C.W. Gortner and Susan Higginbotham. I can certainly say I'm not disappointed; Historical Novel Review gives me a much bettery understanding of the breadth of the historical novels market. It's vital intelligence for anyone looking to break in.


  1. I never heard the word "Phaoronic" until this post. I may have to just drop that in every day conversations now...
    Great post!

  2. Thanks Lydia! Hope I spelled that word right :)

    You might be interested in reading some of the accounts of the physicians who went to Egypt, notable among them Desgenettes who was Napoleon's chief Army surgeon in all the wars that followed.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Richard! Your research sounds fascinating...can't wait to see what you do with it! I keep meaning to read Mirage but haven't gotten around to it yet.