Transcript: Robert Adams on Robert Sole's book the Photographer's Wife. | May 13, 2001

A slate with two Doric columns reads "Robert Adams. Reviews Robert Sole's The Photographer's Wife."

[Applause]

Robert Adams stands behind a wooden lectern on a stage, and holds a book in his hand. He's in his late sixties, balding, with a white goatee. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit, gray shirt, and striped red tie.

He says OUR NOVEL
TONIGHT BEGINS IN EGYPT, IN
THE YEAR 1891, ON A BEACH NEAR
THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA.
THE STORY QUICKLY MOVES TO
CAIRO, AND SHORTLY AFTERWARDS,
SOUTH OF EGYPT TO THE GREAT
AREA OF THE SUDAN.
IT IS A NOVEL ABOUT LOVE AND
MARRIAGE AND INFIDELITY, BUT
IT IS ALSO A NOVEL ABOUT AN
ENORMOUS POLITICAL UPHEAVAL.
EGYPT IN 1891, AND THE 7 YEARS
OF THE NOVEL... THE NOVEL
TAKES PLACE BETWEEN 1891 AND
1898.
EGYPT IS ON THE EVE OF
ENORMOUS POLITICAL UPHEAVAL,
AND TO UNDERSTAND THE
POLITICAL PROBLEMS WHICH ARE
THE BACKGROUND OF TONIGHT'S
NOVEL, AND TO UNDERSTAND WHY,
IN EGYPT IN 1891, THE STREETS
OF CAIRO ARE FULL OF BRITISH
SOLDIERS, AND WHY IT IS THAT
GREAT BRITAIN WIELDED SO MUCH
POWER IN EGYPT IN THE 1890s,
AND TO UNDERSTAND WHY
EGYPTIANS HAD APPARENTLY SUCH
LITTLE SAY IN THE DESTINY OF
THEIR OWN COUNTRY, I HAVE TO
GO BACK A LITTLE IN HISTORY.
AS YOU MAY KNOW, I LIKE TO DO
THAT, AND TONIGHT, I AM GOING
BACK TO THE YEAR 632.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues 632 WAS THE YEAR WHEN THE
PROPHET MUHAMMAD DIED, THE
FOUNDER OF ISLAM.
WITHIN EIGHT YEARS OF HIS
DEATH, THE FOLLOWERS OF THE
PROPHET, MUSLIMS, WOULD SWEEP
OUT OF ARABIA AND ALL ACROSS
NORTH AFRICA AND BEYOND, AND
THEY WOULD CREATE A GREAT
ISLAMIC EMPIRE WHICH STRETCHED
FROM PERSIA IN THE EAST, TO
MOROCCO IN THE WEST, AND
HENCEFORTH, EGYPT, LIKE ALL
THE OTHER ISLAMIC COUNTRIES,
WOULD BE GOVERNED BY A
VICEROY, A KIND OF GOVERNOR
GENERAL APPOINTED BY THE
LEADER OF ISLAM, THE CALIPH,
THE SUCCESSOR TO MUHAMMAD.
THE CALIPH WAS A POPE-LIKE
FIGURE WHO WAS BOTH THE
TEMPORAL AND THE SPIRITUAL
HEAD OF ISLAM.
OVER THE CENTURIES THAT
FOLLOWED, HE WOULD HAVE HIS
CAPITAL SOMETIMES IN BAGDAD,
AND SIT IN DAMASCUS, BUT
WHETHER THE CALIPH OF ISLAM
HAD HIS CAPITAL IN BAGDAD OR
DAMASCUS, HE WOULD APPOINT FOR
EGYPT ALWAYS, A VICEROY WHO
WAS NOT OF EGYPTIAN BLOOD.
THERE WERE GREAT DYNASTIES OF
EGYPTIAN VICEROYS OF KURDISH
BLOOD, OF TUNISIAN BLOOD, EVEN
OF ALBANIAN BLOOD, BUT NEVER,
EVER DID THE CALIPH APPOINT AN
EGYPTIAN TO GOVERN EGYPT,
WHICH MEANT THAT FOR ALL THE
CENTURIES, FOR A MILLENNIUM,
MORE THAN A MILLENNIUM,
EGYPTIANS WOULD OWE THEIR
ALLEGIANCE TO A VICEROY WHO
WAS NOT OF THEIR BLOOD, AND
ULTIMATELY TO A CALIPH OF
ISLAM WHO WAS ALSO NOT AN
EGYPTIAN.
AND IT IS SMALL WONDER THAT
THE EGYPTIANS WOULD NEVER
DEVELOP A STRONG SENSE OF
THEIR OWN WORTH, A STRONG
SENSE OF THEIR OWN SELFHOOD.
INDEED, FOR ONE PERIOD OF
NEARLY 300 YEARS, BEGINNING IN
THE 13th CENTURY, THE MIDDLE
AGES IN OUR HISTORY, THE
EGYPTIANS WOULD BE GOVERNED BY
THEIR OWN SLAVES.
IT'S A FASCINATING PERIOD, THE
MAMELOUK PERIOD.
THE MAMELOUKES WERE THE SLAVES
IN EGYPT USUALLY GREEK OR OF
GREEK DESCENT, WHO WERE
EMPLOYED AS TUTORS FOR WEALTHY
EGYPTIAN FAMILIES, AS THEY HAD
BEEN IN ANCIENT ROME.
IN THE 13th CENTURY, THE
MAMELOUKES ROSE UP AND TOOK
POWER IN EGYPT FROM THEIR
PLEASURE LOVING INCOMPETENT
EGYPTIAN MASTERS, AND FOR
NEARLY 300 YEARS, THE
MAMELOUKES RAN EGYPT.
TITULAR, THAT IS NOMINAL POWER
REMAINED WITH THE VICEROY, A
DELEGATE OF THE CALIPH OF
ISLAM, BUT THE REAL POWER LAY
WITH THE MAMELOUKES UNTIL
1517, WHEN A NEW SULTAN OF
TURKEY EXPANDED THE OTTOMAN
EMPIRE RE-ESTABLISHED THE
POWER OF TURKEY AND RESTORED
REAL POWER TO THE VICEROYS OF
THE ISLAMIC COUNTRIES.
BUT IN EGYPT, THE MAMELOUKES
ALTHOUGH NOW SUBORDINATE TO
THE VICEROY, RETAINED A
CERTAIN PHYSICAL POWER.
SO MUCH SO THAT BY THE 19th
CENTURY, THE VICEROYS WE SO
IRRITATED BY THE MAMELOUK
PRINCES, AND SO IN 1811, THE
GREATEST OF ALL THE EGYPTIAN
VICEROYS, A MAN CALLED
MUHAMMAD ALI, FROM WHOM THE
BOXER TOOK HIS NAME, MUHAMMAD
ALI PASHA, INVITED ALL THE
MAMELOUK LEADERS TO A GREAT
BANQUET, WHERE HE MURDERED
THEM, THEREBY SILENCING THE
OPPOSITION.
THERE WAS ONE MAMELOUK WHO
ESCAPED.
HE ESCAPED THE 1811 MASSACRE
BY MOHAMMAD ALI PASHA, BY
JUMPING OVER A WALL, THE WALL
OF THE CASTLE.
NOW REMEMBER THAT WORD,
MAMELOUK, THE SLAVES WHO
GOVERNED EGYPT FOR 300 YEARS,
FROM THE 13th TO THE 16th
CENTURY, BECAUSE THE FEMININE
FORM OF THAT TITLE, LA
MAMELOUKA, IS THE NICKNAME,
THE SOBRIQUET GIVEN TO THE
PROTAGONIST OF TONIGHT'S
NOVEL, DORA.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Robert Adams. Reviewing 'The photographer's wife.'"

Robert continues IT IS A
NICKNAME GIVEN TO HER BY THE
RELATIVES, THE NIECES AND
NEPHEWS OF HER HUSBAND, AND
THEN BY HER OWN FRIENDS.
BECAUSE THEY
ALL REMEMBER IN 1891, THAT
WHEN DORA WAS A LITTLE GIRL,
SHE WENT TO A CONVENT SCHOOL,
AND THE NUNS ALMOST CAUGHT HER
SMOKING, BUT SHE ESCAPED.
AND HOW DID SHE ESCAPE?
BY JUMPING OVER A WALL.
AND IT REMINDED THEM OF WHAT
HAD HAPPENED IN 1811 WHEN THE
LAST MAMELOUK JUMPED OVER A
WALL TO ESCAPE A MASSACRE.
ALSO JUST AS THE MAMELOUKES
HAD, IN THE 13th CENTURY,
TAKEN OVER FROM THEIR
INCOMPETENT MASTERS, SO DORA
OUR PROTAGONIST, WILL SURPASS
HER HUSBAND IN THE FAMILY
BUSINESS.
REMEMBER THAT IN THE TITLE OF
THIS NOVEL, THE TITLE OF THIS
NOVEL, IN ITS ORIGINAL FRENCH
VERSION WAS, LA MAMELOUKA.
NOW ANY FRENCH OR EGYPTIAN
READER WOULD IMMEDIATELY HAVE
IN HIS MIND OR HER MIND, FROM
THE TITLE, AN IMAGE OF A WOMAN
WHO HAS SEIZED POWER FROM A
TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY.
BY THE WAY, GOING BACK TO THAT
GREAT FRENCH VICEROY, MOHAMMAD
ALI PASHA, HE WHO HAD MURDERED
THE MAMELOUKES IN 1811, IN
1820, HE DECIDED TO EXPAND
EGYPT, AND HE EXPANDED TO THE
SOUTH.
TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT
BEGAN TO HAPPEN IN 1820...

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues I HAVE PREPARED A VISUAL AID.

He lifts a yellow cut-out map of Africa with Egypt highlighted in brown.

He continues THAT IS AFRICA IN THE 19th
CENTURY.
THE BLACK SHADED AREA IN THE
NORTH EAST IS EGYPT.
IT IS OF COURSE LARGER NOW.
THERE HAVE BEEN BOUNDARY
READJUSTMENTS SINCE THAT TIME,
AND MODERN EGYPT IS BIGGER.
BUT THAT WAS EGYPT AT THE TIME
OF MOHAMMAD ALI PASHA IN 1820,
AND HE DECIDED TO EXPAND
EGYPT'S POWER TO THE SOUTH.

He tears a piece off the map, revealing a shaded area south of Egypt.

He continues AND MOHAMMAD ALI PASHA INVADED
THE GREAT AREA TO THE SOUTH OF
EGYPT, KNOWN AS THE SUDAN.
NOW THE SUDAN WAS NEVER ONE
COUNTRY, THE SUDAN WAS A GREAT
AREA MADE UP OF MANY SMALL
STATES, LOOSE CONFEDERATIONS
OF STATES, LITTLE KINGDOMS,
AND THE WHOLE SUBJUGATION OF
THE SUDAN TOOK MORE THAN
MOHAMMAD ALI PASHA'S LIFETIME.
IT WASN'T COMPLETED UNTIL
1874, WHEN THE WHOLE OF THE
SUDAN BECAME A SUBJECT STATE
OF EGYPT.
THE FINAL SUCCESS IN
CONQUERING THE SUDAN WAS DUE,
NOT ONLY TO EGYPTIAN FORCES,
BUT TO A GREAT BRITISH
GENERAL.
THE EGYPTIAN VICEROYS, THEY
WERE NOW KNOWN BY THE WAY AS
KADIVS, A NEW TITLE GIVEN THEM
BY THE SULTAN OF TURKEY, WHO
WAS THE CALIPH OF ISLAM.
THE KADIVS HAD DIFFICULTY IN
COMPLETING THE SUBJUGATION OF
THE SUDAN AND SO THEY ASKED
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT, TO
LEND THEM A BRITISH GENERAL.
AND THE BRITISH LENT THEM
GENERAL CHARLES GORDON.
GORDON MANAGED TO ACHIEVE THE
FINAL SUBJUGATION OF THE
SUDAN, AND THE KADIV, VICEROY
OF EGYPT, AWARDED HIM THE
TITLE OF GOVERNOR GENERAL OF
THE SUDAN.
THE BRITISH WERE DELIGHTED
THAT THE EGYPTIANS HAD
BORROWED A BRITISH GENERAL AND
THEY WERE DELIGHTED WHEN THAT
BRITISH GENERAL, GENERAL
GORDON BECAME THE GOVERNOR
GENERAL OF THE SUDAN, BECAUSE
THE BRITISH HAD BECOME
INCREASINGLY INTERESTED IN THE
19th CENTURY, IN EGYPT AND THE
SUDAN, BECAUSE CONTROL OF
EGYPT AND THE SUDAN PLUS
CENTRAL AFRICA, BAKWANA LAND,
BASOTHO LAND, LATER RHODESIA,
HEADING DOWN TO SOUTH AFRICA,
WOULD GIVE BRITAIN
UNINTERRUPTED CONTROL OF THE
EASTERN SIDE OF AFRICA.
TO
CONSOLIDATE THEIR POSITION,
THE BRITISH INVESTED EVER MORE
HEAVILY IN EGYPT.
THEY BOUGHT THE WHOLE OF THE
EGYPTIAN RAILWAY SYSTEM.
THEY OWNED
MOST OF THE EGYPTIAN BANKS,
THEY BOUGHT A HEAVY SHARE IN
THE SUEZ CANAL, COMPLETED IN
1869.
THEY RAN THE CUSTOMS SERVICE
FOR EGYPT, AND SO WHEN ONE OF
THE VICEROYS, ISMAEL PASHA,
DIED IN 1879, WITH MASSIVE
DEBT, AND THERE WAS CIVIL
UNREST IN THE STREETS OF
CAIRO, THE BRITISH SAID, WE
HAVE TO PROTECT OUR
INVESTMENTS, SO IN 1882, THE
BRITISH OCCUPIED EGYPT,
THEREBY CONTROLLING THE
COUNTRY AND THEREBY
CONTROLLING THE SUDAN.
AND THE BRITISH POWER WAS SO
GREAT THAT THE BRITISH AGENT
IN EGYPT, THE BRITISH CONSUL
GENERAL IN EGYPT, SIR EVELYN
BARING, OF THE GREAT BANKING
HOUSE, LATER ELEVATED TO THE
TITLE OF LORD CROMER, HE'S A
CHARACTER IN OUR NOVEL.
LORD CROMER'S POWER WAS SUCH
THAT HE WAS THE MINISTER OF
FINANCE IN THEY EGYPTIAN
GOVERNMENT, AND THE TRUE
SOURCE OF ALL POWER IN EGYPT.
THERE WAS STILL A KADIV, A
VICEROY, BUT HIS POWER WAS
NOMINAL.
NOW WHEN BRITAIN OCCUPIED
EGYPT IN 1882, AND THEREBY
EGYPTIANS' VASSAL STATE, THE
SUDAN, IT AGAIN SOUGHT TO
CONSOLIDATE ITS POSITION.
BRITAIN ALMOST IMMEDIATELY
LOPPED OFF THE SOUTHERN EDGE
OF THE SUDAN, AND CREATED TWO
NEW COUNTRIES, IN FACT TWO NEW
BRITISH COLONIES, KENYA AND
UGANDA.
BUT THE BRITISH WOULD FACE
DIFFICULTIES IN THEIR
OCCUPATION OF EGYPT AFTER 1882...
THERE WERE THREE.
THE FIRST WAS OF COURSE
EGYPTIAN RESENTMENT, THE
GROWING TIDE OF EGYPTIAN
NATIONALISM.
THE SECOND WAS AN UPRISING IN
THE SUDAN ITSELF.
IN 1884, A SUDANESE, A MAN OF
THE DESERT, A MAN CALLED
MOHAMMED AHMAD, PROCLAIMED
HIMSELF THE ANOINTED ONE OF
GOD, EL MAHDI.
AND HE SAID, "GOD HAS CHOSEN
ME TO BRING THE SUDAN AND THEN
EGYPT AND THEN THE WHOLE OF
THE ISLAMIC EMPIRE, BACK TO
THE PURITY OF ISLAM TAUGHT BY
THE PROPHET."
AND HE CREATED GREAT ARMIES.
WE CALL THEM THE DERVISH
ARMIES, AND HE INITIATED HOLY
WAR AGAINST THE EGYPTIANS AND
THE BRITISH.
AND AT FIRST THE MAHDI,
MOHAMMED AHMAD AND HIS
FOLLOWERS, MET WITH INCREDIBLE
SUCCESS.
HE DESTROYED NOT ONLY EGYPTIAN
FORCES IN THE SUDAN, BUT A
WHOLE BRITISH ARMY UNDER
GENERAL HICKS.
GENERAL GORDON HIMSELF, WHO
HAD GONE BACK TO ENGLAND
BECAUSE OF BAD HEALTH,
RETURNED TO SUDAN AND TRIED TO
EVACUATE ALL THE CIVILIANS OUT
OF KHARTOUM AND ITS SISTER
CITY OF ANDUMAN WHERE THE BLUE
AND WHITE NILES MEET IN SUDAN,
AND ON JANUARY THE 26th, 1885,
THE MAHDI DESTROYED GENERAL
GORDON.
YOU MAY HAVE SEEN A MOVIE OF
THE EVENT, IT WAS CALLED,
KHARTOUM.
CHARLTON HESTON PLAYED GENERAL
GORDON AND THE MAHDI WAS
PLAYED BY LAURENCE OLIVIER IN
A MAGNIFICENT PERFORMANCE.
FOR 13 YEARS AFTER THE DEATH
OF GORDON AT KHARTOUM IN 1885,
THE MAHDI, WHO DIED SHORTLY
AFTERWARDS, AND HIS SUCCESSOR,
THE CALIPH OF DULA, GOVERNED
THE SUDAN.
UNTIL 13 YEARS LATER IN 1898,
THE LAST YEAR OF OUR NOVEL,
THE DERVISH FORCES WERE
CRUSHED BY ANOTHER BRITISH
GENERAL, GENERAL KITCHENER, AT
THE GREAT BATTLE OF OMDURMAN.
SO WE HAVE TWO PROBLEMS FOR
THE BRITISH, EGYPTIAN
NATIONALISM IN THE 90s, AND
THE UPRISING IN THE SUDAN, AND
THE HOLDING OF THE SUDAN BY
DERVISH FORCES FROM 1885 TO
1898, THE THIRD PROBLEM FOR
THE BRITISH WAS FRENCH
JEALOUSY, THEN, AS NOW.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues IN THE 19th CENTURY'S SCRAMBLE
FOR AFRICA BY EUROPEAN POWERS,
THE FRENCH HAD SEIZED MUCH OF
NORTH AFRICA AND MUCH OF WEST
AFRICA, BUT THEY HAD ALWAYS
HAD THEIR EYE ON EAST AFRICA.
AND AFTER THE BRITISH WERE
DEFEATED, AFTER GORDON WAS
KILLED IN KHARTOUM IN 1885,
THE FRENCH SAW THEIR CHANCE.
BUT THE BRITISH WERE SO POWERFUL THAT
THE FRENCH WAITED AND IT
WASN'T FOR YEARS LATER THAT
THEY SENT A SMALL
EXPEDITIONARY FORCE FROM THEIR
COLONIES TO THE WEST, SENEGAL
AND GABON, ALL THE WAY ACROSS
AFRICA.
THE
EXPEDITION TOOK YEARS, UNTIL
FINALLY THEY REACHED A POINT
SOUTH OF KHARTOUM, THE CITY OF
FASHODA IN 1898, AND IN 1898,
THE FRENCH SAID, THE BRITISH
ABANDONED THE SUDAN WHEN
GORDON WAS KILLED IN 1885, WE
NOW CLAIM THE SUDAN FOR
FRANCE.
BUT SOME MONTHS EARLIER, LORD
KITCHENER HAD DESTROYED THE
DERVISH ARMIES AT KHARTOUM AND
OMDURMAN, AND LORD KITCHENER
SAILED DOWN THE RIVER TO
FASHODA, WITH FIVE GUNBOATS
AND 30,000 BRITISH SOLDIERS,
AND HE CONFRONTED THE FRENCH
IN 1898 AT FASHODA, AND SAID
TO THE 150 FRENCHMEN, THE
SUDAN IS STILL BRITISH.
AND THERE WAS A FACE OFF, IT
IS PART OF OUR NOVEL.
BACK IN EUROPE, THE FRENCH
PUBLIC CLAMBERED FOR WAR WITH
ENGLAND.
THEY SAID ENGLAND HAS CLAIMED
TOO MUCH OF AFRICA.
THEY HAVE MORE THAN A LION'S
SHARE.
BUT THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT KNEW
THAT THEY WOULD NEED, IN THE
NEAR FUTURE, BRITISH HELP
AGAINST GERMANY.
AFTER ALL, IN 1870, BISMARCK'S
FORCES HAD CRUSHED THE FRENCH,
AND THEY KNEW THERE WOULD BE
ANOTHER WAR.
AND SO THE FRENCH BACKED OFF
IN 1898, BUT THERE WAS GREAT
EXCITEMENT AND WE HAVE PART OF
THAT EXCITEMENT IN OUR NOVEL
TONIGHT.
WHEN THE FRENCH BACKED OFF,
THEY SAID, WE ACCEPT THAT THE
BRITISH HAVE CONTROL OF AFRICA
EAST OF THE WATERSHEDS OF THE
NILE AND THE CONGO.
THE BRITISH SPHERE OF
INFLUENCE IS EAST AND SOUTH
AFRICA.
IN RETURN, THE BRITISH SAID,
THE FRENCH HAVE, AS FAR AS WE
ARE CONCERNED, A FREE HAND IN
WEST AND NORTH AFRICA, EXCEPT,
OF COURSE, FOR THE BRITISH
COLONIES OF NIGERIA, SIERRA
LEONE, GAMBIA AND SO ON, BUT
WE WILL GIVE THEM A FREE HAND,
PARTICULARLY IN TUNISIA, AND
MOROCCO.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT, AN
ABRIDGED HISTORY OF EGYPT AND
THE SUDAN AND THE BRITISH
PRESENCE FROM 1882 ONWARD.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO LIKE A
SENSE OF CLOSURE IN YOUR
NARRATIVE, EGYPT ITSELF WOULD
NOT FREE ITSELF FROM BRITISH
INFLUENCE UNTIL MY LIFETIME,
UNTIL 1952, WHEN KING FAROUK,
WHOSE FATHER FUAD, HAD BEEN
KADIV, AND THEN MADE KING BY
THE BRITISH, A KINGSHIP THAT
FAROUK INHERITED, WHEN IN
1952, FAROUK WAS EXPELLED BY
AN EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION LED BY
GAMAL ABDEL NASSER.
NOW I WAS A STUDENT IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF LONDON IN THE
50s, AND I COULDN'T UNDERSTAND
WHY MY ARAB FRIENDS, MY
EGYPTIAN FRIENDS IN LONDON
ADORED NASSER.
HE WAS ARAB SOCIALIST, BUT WE
WERE ALL SOCIALISTS IN THE
1950s.
WHY DID THEY ADORE NASSER?
AND AFTER A LITTLE RESEARCH I
UNDERSTOOD.
WHEN NASSER TOOK CONTROL OF
EGYPT FROM FAROUK IN 1952,
NASSER WAS THE FIRST EGYPTIAN
IN 2,000 YEARS TO RULE EGYPT.
AND THAT'S WHY THE EGYPTIAN
MASSES ADORED HIM.
THEY HAD ALWAYS BEEN GOVERNED
BY A VICEROY OF FOREIGN BLOOD,
OWING HIS ALLEGIANCE TO A
CALIPH USUALLY OF TURKISH
BLOOD.
THE SUDAN
ITSELF WOULD REMAIN UNDER
JOINT ANGLO-EGYPTIAN CONTROL
UNTIL 1956, WHEN AN AGREEMENT
BETWEEN NASSER AND THE BRITISH
GAVE THE SUDAN ITS
INDEPENDENCE.
AND THERE YOU
HAVE IT.
I HOPE IT EXPLAINS MUCH THAT
IS HAPPENING IN THE NOVEL,
WHY, AFTER 1882, THERE WERE
BRITISH TROOPS IN THE STREETS
OF CAIRO, WHY THE BRITISH
AGENT, CONSUL GENERAL IN
CAIRO, LORD CROMER, PREVIOUSLY
SIR EVELYN BARING, SHOULD HAVE
SUCH POWER.
WHAT THE EVENTS ARE IN THE
NOVEL WHEN LORD KITCHENER
SAILS DOWN THE NILE TO
KHARTOUM AND DESTROYS THE
DERVISH ARMIES IN 1898, AND
WHY THE BRITISH WIN THE FACE
OFF AGAINST FRANCE, SOUTH OF
KHARTOUM AT FASHODA, AND THE
SUDAN REMAINS ANGLO-EGYPTIAN.
AND NOW I MOVE TO THE NOVEL
ITSELF.
THERE WILL BE A BRIEF TEST, BY
THE WAY, ON EVERYTHING I HAVE
SAID.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS OF OUR
NOVEL ARE DORA SOWAYA AND
EMILE TOUTA, BETTER KNOWN AS
MILO.
MILO IS A PHOTOGRAPHER AND
DORA IS THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S
WIFE, IN FRENCH, THE
MAMELOUKA, THE SLAVE WHO TOOK
OVER.
BOTH OF THEM ARE MEMBERS OF A
TINY MINORITY, A TINY
COMMUNITY IN EGYPT, THE GREEK
CATHOLICS OF EGYPT, OFTEN
CALLED BY THE EGYPTIANS THE
SYRIANS, OR IN EGYPTIAN
ARABIC, THE SHAWAM.
THE STORY OF THAT TINY
MINORITY WITHIN MUSLIM EGYPT,
A MINORITY TO WHICH OUR
AUTHOR, ROBERT SOLE BELONGS,
IS A FASCINATING ONE, AND IT
NEEDS A LITTLE ELABORATION.
I AM VERY GRATEFUL TO MONSIEUR
SOLE FOR SENDING ME A BRIEF
OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF THE
GREEK CATHOLIC COMMUNITY IN
EGYPT, A BRIEF FAMILY HISTORY,
TOGETHER WITH SOME NOTES ON
HIMSELF AND HIS OWN ATTITUDES.
THIS COMMUNITY IN EGYPT, THE
GREEK CATHOLICS, AND NOT THE
GREEK ORTHODOX, THAT GREAT
FAITH THAT EXISTS INDEPENDENT
OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH,
THE GREEK CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
IN EGYPT, PRACTICED WHAT THE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH CALLS AN
EASTERN RITE, THE MALACHITE
RITE.
THE PATRIARCH OF THE GREEK
CATHOLIC CHURCH IN EGYPT, IS
RECOGNISED AS A CARDINAL BY
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
THE POINT ABOUT THE GREEK
CATHOLICS IN EGYPT IS THAT
WHILE THEY USE A GREEK FORM OF
WORSHIP, THEY ARE IN FACT
ARAB.
THEY ARE CHRISTIAN ARABS, AND
THEY CAME ORIGINALLY FROM
SYRIA, FROM LEBANON, WHICH WAS
THEN PART OF SYRIA.
THEY CAME TO EGYPT FROM SYRIA
TO ESCAPE RELIGIOUS
PERSECUTION BY THE MUSLIM
MAJORITIES.
THEY CAME 50 YEARS AGO, 100
YEARS AGO, 200 YEARS AGO, 300
YEARS AGO.
ROBERT SOLE TOLD ME THAT HIS
FATHER'S FAMILY CAME SO MANY
GENERATIONS AGO TO EGYPT, THAT
HE DOESN'T KNOW IF HIS
ANCESTORS CAME FROM DAMASCUS
OR ALEPPO.
WHEN THE FIRST OF THE SYRIANS,
THE GREEK CATHOLICS, THE
SHAWAM... WHEN THEY FIRST CAME
TO EGYPT, THEY WERE WELCOMED
BY THE EGYPTIAN VICEROYS, THEY
WERE VALUED BY THE VICEROYS
FOR THEIR COSMOPOLITAN
EDUCATION, FOR THEIR
MULTILINGUALISM, AND THEY WERE
PLACED IN IMPORTANT ADVISORY
POSITIONS.
THEY HELPED THE SHAWAM, THE
GREEK CATHOLICS, THE SYRIANS,
THEY FELT MORE IN TUNE WITH
CHRISTIAN EUROPE THAN WITH THE
MUSLIM MIDDLE EAST.
WHEN NAPOLEON INVADED EGYPT IN
1798, AND REMAINED FOR THREE
YEARS UNTIL THE BRITISH DROVE
HIM OUT, THE SHAWAM WELCOMED
THE FRENCH, THEY WERE ADVISORS
TO THE FRENCH, INTERMEDIARIES
WITH THE MUSLIM MAJORITY, AND
WHEN NAPOLEON LEFT EGYPT IN
1801, MANY OF THE SHAWAM LEFT
WITH HIM AND WENT TO FRANCE.
THOSE WHO STAYED, IN EGYPT
BROUGHT UP THEIR CHILDREN IN
FRENCH LANGUAGE CATHOLIC
SCHOOLS AND STILL SAW FRANCE
AS THEIR NATURAL PROTECTOR.
80 YEARS LATER, WHEN THE
BRITISH OCCUPIED EGYPT TO
PROTECT THEIR INVESTMENTS, IN
1882, THEY, AS THE FRENCH 80
YEARS EARLIER, RELIED HEAVILY
ON THIS TINY POLYGLOT
COMMUNITY AS INTERMEDIARIES
BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THE
MUSLIM EGYPTIAN MAJORITY.
THE SYRIANS, THE SHAWAM PLAYED
AN ENORMOUS PART IN CAIRO'S
MOVE OUT OF OTTOMAN, OUT OF
TURKISH CHAOS, INTO MODERNITY
AND THE 20th CENTURY.
FLUENTLY
MULTILINGUAL, THIS TINY
COMMUNITY, THE SHAWAM, CREATED
WIDELY READ NEWSPAPERS, LIKE
LA SEMAPHORE D'ALEXANDRE.
THEY FOUNDED
GREAT CHAINS OF RETAIL STORES,
THEY HAD A DISPROPORTIONATELY
GREAT INFLUENCE IN THE
CREATIVE ARTS.
IT IS NOT A COINCIDENCE THAT
OUR PROTAGONIST, MILO TOUTA IS
A PHOTOGRAPHER, THAT HIS GREAT
RIVAL IN CAIRO IS A FRENCHMAN,
JACQUES MARR, HIS OTHER RIVAL
IN CAIRO AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, IS
AN ARMENIAN.
NO MUSLIM EGYPTIAN FROM THE
MAJORITY WOULD HAVE TAKEN A
FORBIDDEN GRAVEN IMAGE.
NOW THE INFLUENCE OF THESE
ARAB CHRISTIANS WAS
TREMENDOUS, BEFORE AND AFTER
1900, RIGHT UP UNTIL NASSER'S
REVOLUTION OF 1952.
WHEN, IN 1952, AND EGYPTIAN
TOOK OVER EGYPT, THERE WAS NO
IMPORTANT PLACE IN EGYPT FOR A
MINORITY WHO, AS MONSIEUR SOLE
PUT IT TO ME, "WERE NEVER
DESTINED TO BE TOTALLY
ASSIMILATED.
NASSER WANTED, IN 1952, HIS
NEW EGYPT TO HAVE AN EGYPTIAN
FACE, AND SO IN THE EARLY 50s,
MANY OF THE SYRIANS, THE
SHAWAM, THE GREEK CATHOLICS,
LEFT EGYPT, OFTEN FOR FRANCE.
SOME CAME TO CANADA, USUALLY
TO QUEBEC.
AMONG THOSE SYRIANS WHO LEFT,
GREEK CATHOLICS WHO LEFT, WAS
ROBERT SOLE, OUR AUTHOR.
IN 1954, AT THE AGE OF 18, HE
WAS BORN IN 1936, HE IS
THEREFORE NOW 65.
HE LEFT AFTER THE NASSER
REVOLUTION.
HE WENT TO PARIS, TO A
DISTINGUISHED CAREER IN FRENCH
JOURNALISM.
HE BECAME ASSOCIATE CHIEF
EDITOR OF LE MONDE, ONE OF THE
GREAT NEWSPAPERS OF THE WORLD.
HE RETAINED, HOWEVER, A DEEP
AND ABIDING INTEREST IN THE
EGYPT OF HIS BIRTH.
HE WAS WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY OF
EGYPTIAN HISTORY.
HE HAS WRITTEN FOUR NOVELS.
HE TOOK A GREEK CATHOLIC, THAT
IS A SYRIAN FAMILY IN EGYPT,
AND HE FOLLOWED THEIR PROGRESS
OVER GENERATIONS, BETWEEN
ABOUT 1860 AND NOW.
THOSE FOUR NOVELS FORM A
WHOLE.
THIS IS THE FIRST TO BE
TRANSLATED.
IT IS IN FACT, THE THIRD.
THE FIRST WAS CALLED THE
TARBOUCHE, THE FEZ.
THE SECOND, IN FRENCH WAS
CALLED LE SEMAPHORE
D'ALEXANDRE, THE NAME OF A
NEWSPAPER.
IN ENGLISH IT'S RENDERED AS
BIRDS OF PASSAGE.
THEN WE HAVE, THE
PHOTOGRAPHER'S WIFE, FROM 1891
TO 1898, AND THE FOURTH HAS
JUST COME OUT IN ENGLISH, IT'S
CALLED MAZAG, WHICH BRINGS US
RIGHT UP TO THE PRESENT DAY.
TAKEN ALL TOGETHER, HIS NOVELS
FOR A CHRONICLE OF A GREAT
EXTENDED FAMILY, HALF OF THEM
ARE NAMED BAKREKANI, AND HALF
OF THEM ARE NAMED TOUTA, LIKE
OUR PHOTOGRAPHER, MILO TOUTA.
BUT, THIS NOVEL, LIKE THE TWO
THAT PRECEDED IT OR THE ONE
THAT FOLLOWED IT, ARE NOT THE
STORY OF THE GREAT EGYPTIAN
MASSES, WHO WERE, IN THE MAIN,
CONTENT WITH THE PLEASURES AND
THE HABITS AND THE MORAYS THAT
THEY HAD ENJOYED SINCE THE
TIME OF THE PROPHET IN THE 7th
CENTURY.
ROBERT SOLE IS WRITING HERE
ABOUT A TINY MINORITY WITH A
EUROPEAN RELIGIOUS FAITH, AND
EUROPEAN ATTITUDES.
FOR THE STORY OF THE GREAT
EGYPTIAN MAJORITY, THE MUSLIM
MAJORITY IN THE LATE 19th AND
EARLY 20th CENTURIES, YOU HAVE
TO GO TO THE NOVELS OF THE
GREAT NAGUIB MAHFOUZ, WHO WON
THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
IN 1988 FOR THREE NOVELS, WE
CALL THEM THE CAIRO TRILOGY,
COVERING THE YEARS, 1910 TO
1956.
I REMEMBER IN 1991, I REVIEWED
THE FIRST OF THEM TO BE
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH,
PALACE WALK.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, MY REVIEW
OF NAGUIB MAHFOUZ'S PALACE
WALK IS ONE OF THE 20 LECTURES
IN THIS MODESTLY PRICED...

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues COLLECTION AVAILABLE IN ONE OR
TWO WEEKS IN ALL FINE
BOOKSTORES.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THE
DIFFERENCE.
SOLE IS WRITING ABOUT THE TINY
MINORITY, NAGUIB MAHFOUZ IS
WRITING ABOUT THE GREAT
EGYPTIAN MAJORITY, THE MUSLIM
MAJORITY.
BOTH ARE
WRITING ABOUT PROSPEROUS
FAMILIES IN CAIRO.
BUT MAHFOUZ,
THE MUSLIM, HIS STORY IS OF
WIVES CLOISTERED IN HOMES THAT
ARE EFFECTIVELY PRISONS.
WIVES, WHO IN 1900, 1917,
1937, 1957, WIVES WHO ARE
SEMI-LITERATE, SUPERSTITIOUS,
AND UTTERLY SUBSERVIENT TO
THEIR PLEASURE LOVING
HUSBANDS.
ROBERT SOLE AND NAGUIB MAHFOUZ
ARE BOTH BEARING HONEST
WITNESS TO AN EARLIER EGYPT.
BUT THEY ARE WRITING
EFFECTIVELY ABOUT TWO
DIFFERENT UNIVERSES.
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE WIFE IN
MAHFOUZ'S GREAT FIRST NOVEL,
PALACE WALK, THAT POOR
FRIGHTENED WOMAN, I REMEMBER
HER SO WELL.
AMINA, WHO HAD NEVER BEEN OUT
OF HER HOME, NEVER, NOT EVEN
TO THE MOSQUE.
HOW DIFFERENT IS AMINA BY
MAHFOUZ, FROM DORA THE
MAMELOUKA, THE FREE SPIRIT OF
TONIGHT'S NOVEL.
GLORIOUSLY FREE, GLORIOUSLY
INTELLIGENT, GLORIOUSLY
EDUCATED.
CONSIDER THE OPENING SCENE OF
TONIGHT'S NOVEL.
WE ARE ON A BEACH, FLEMMING
BEACH, NEAR THE CITY OF
ALEXANDRIA.
A CAIRO PHOTOGRAPHER, MILO
TOUTA IS TAKING HIS ANNUAL
HOLIDAY.
FOR A FEW WEEKS HE IS STAYING
WITH HIS BROTHER.
HE IS SUPPLEMENTING HIS INCOME
BY WORKING AS A BEACH
PHOTOGRAPHER APART FROM TAKING
THE GREAT EXTENDED BAKREKANI-
TOUTA EXTENDED FAMILY
PHOTOGRAPH ON THE BEACH.
HE'S NOT A VERY SUCCESSFUL
PHOTOGRAPHER, MILO.
BACK IN CAIRO, HE HAS A STUDIO
WITH A GRANDIOSE CLAIM,
PHOTOGRAPHER TO THE
CONSULATES, BUT NO CONSUL HAS
EVER BEEN INTO HIS STUDIO.
IT'S A BLUFF, TYPICAL OF HIS
EXTRAVAGANT OUTGOING
PERSONALITY.
MILO IS ON THE BEACH, HE SEES
A PRETTY GIRL IN A WHITE
DRESS, AND A STRAW HAT,
PAINTING AT THE EDGE OF THE
SEA, AND HE GOES UP TO HER AND
HE SPEAKS TO HER, HE MAKES A
PLAY.
TYPICAL OF HIS COCKY BRAGGART
CHARM, AND IT'S A MARVELLOUS
SCENE, AND IT'S WORTH SPENDING
A MOMENT ON.
FIRST THE CHASM BETWEEN THE
COMMUNITY IN THIS NOVEL AND
THE GREAT EGYPTIAN MAJORITY OF
THE NOVELS OF NAGUIB MAHFOUZ
IS SO APPARENT IN THAT OPENING
SCENE.
NO MUSLIM EGYPTIAN WOMAN OF
1891 WOULD HAVE BEEN ALONE ON
A BEACH.
IF SHE WERE, SHE WOULD NOT
HAVE BEEN PAINTING
WATERCOLOURS, MAKING A
FORBIDDEN GRAVEN IMAGE.
AND MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, NO
YOUNG MAN, OTHER THAN A BLOOD
RELATIVE, WOULD HAVE DARED TO
ADDRESS HER.
TO DO SO WOULD HAVE BEEN TO
OFFER AN INSULT TO HER HOUSE.
EVEN IF THESE UNTHINKABLE
EVENTS HAD HAPPENED, NO
EGYPTIAN MUSLIM WOMAN WOULD
HAVE REPLIED TO A MAN AS
IMPERTINENTLY AS DORA DOES.
MILO, HANDSOME, HEAVY OF FACE,
THICK LIPPED, THICK LIDDED,
SENSUAL, SEXY...
GOES UP TO HER AND INTRODUCES
HIMSELF.
AND HE SAYS, "AND WHO ARE
YOU?"
AND DORA LOOKS AT HIM, AND
SAYS, "SARAH BERNHARD."
AND THAT'S WHEN I REALISED I
AM NOT READING MAHFOUZ, I AM
READING ROBERT SOLE, ABOUT THE
TINY SYRIAN GREEK CATHOLIC
SHAWAM COMMUNITY.
I FOUND, BY THE WAY, THAT IN
THE NOVEL, ROBERT SOLE ADOPTS
A VERY EFFECTIVE NARRATIVE
TECHNIQUE.
ALL THE PASSAGES THAT DEAL
WITH DORA'S LOVE... SHE FALLS
IN LOVE WITH MILO, HER
MARRIAGE TO MILO, HER GROWING
DEVOTION TO PHOTOGRAPHY, HIS
PROFESSION INITIALLY, THEY ARE
ALL DELIVERED IN THE FIRST
PERSON, IN DORA'S OWN VOICE.
ALL THE PASSAGES THAT DEAL
WITH THE POLITICAL PROBLEMS,
GROWING EGYPTIAN NATIONALISM,
THE RISING AND THE VICTORY OF
LORD KITCHENER IN THE SUDAN,
FRENCH JEALOUSY OF THE
BRITISH, ALL THE POLITICAL
PROBLEMS ARE RENDERED BY SOME
OMNISCIENT THIRD PERSON
NARRATOR, AND IT'S A WONDERFUL
TECHNIQUE, BECAUSE HE SUCCEEDS
REMARKABLY WELL, ROBERT SOLE,
IN BRINGING US INTIMATELY INTO
DORA'S EMOTIONAL WORLD, AND
DISTINGUISHING IT FROM THE
WORLD OF OUTSIDE EVENTS WITH
WHICH IT BECOMES SO ENTWINED.
NOW YOU MAY
WELL ASK... I HEAR YOU
MURMURING...

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues WHY DOES THE INDEPENDENT FREE
SPIRITED DORA FALL IN LOVE
WITH THIS COCKY SENSUAL
BRAGGART, MILO TOUTA?
MILO IS
HARDLY AN ADMIRABLE MAN.
HE IS NOT A MAN OF GREAT MORAL
PRINCIPLE, BACK IN CAIRO, HE
SUPPLEMENTS HIS MEAGRE INCOME
AS A PHOTOGRAPHER BY A SMALL
TRADE IN SOFT PORN
PHOTOGRAPHS.
I QUOTE, PAGE 5, "HE HAD
SNEAKED WOMEN OF EASY VIRTUE
INTO HIS STUDIO WHERE THEY
GRACELESSLY BARED THEIR
BREASTS FOR THE CAMERA, OR IN
RETURN FOR A FEW EXTRA
SHILLINGS, ADOPTED MORE
IMPROPER POSES.
ONE OF THEM, WHO SMELLED OF
STEWED BEANS, HAD EVEN DEEMED
IT HER DUTY TO JOIN THE
PHOTOGRAPHER UNDER THE BLACK
CLOTH.
DORA FALLS IN LOVE WITH THIS
POSTURING BRAGGART FOR THREE
REASONS.
THE FIRST IS MADE CLEAR TO US
DURING THEIR BRIEF MEETINGS ON
THE BEACH.
A LITTLE GIRL IS CRYING.
SHE HAS RECEIVED A FOOTBALL
FULL IN THE FACE.
CHILDREN ARE PLAYING NEARBY.
I QUOTE, "MILO HURRIED OVER TO
HER, BENT DOWN AND TOOK HER
GENTLY IN HIS ARMS.
DORA SAW HER TEARFUL FACE
DISAPPEAR INTO THE HOLLOW OF
HIS SHOULDER.
BEFORE LONG SHE BEGAN TO SMILE
THROUGH HER TEARS.
THOUGHTFULLY, DORA MOISTENED
HER BRUSH, AND WENT BACK TO
MIXING THE PAINTS ON HER
PALATE."
THOUGHTFULLY, NOW THERE'S A
WORD THAT IS BEARING A GREAT
DEAL OF WEIGHT, AND IT IS IN
EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACE.
AND IT IS A LESSON FOR US IN
THE ECONOMY OF LANGUAGE IN THE
HANDS OF A TALENTED WRITER.
ALL THE IMPLICATIONS OF MILO'S
SPONTANEOUS KINDNESS AND
GENTLENESS TO THE CHILD, ALL
THOSE IMPLICATIONS RESONATE IN
THE MIND OF DORA, AND WE GET
IT ALL FROM THAT ONE WORD,
THOUGHTFULLY, SHE RETURNED TO
HER PALETTE.
THE SECOND REASON FOR DORA'S
FALLING IN LOVE WITH MILO
TOUTA IS THAT HE CAN MAKE HER
LAUGH.
WE ARE TOLD, MILO TOLD
HILARIOUS TALES OF HIS FAMILY,
THE TOUTAS, WHO I HAVE SEEN ON
THE BEACH THE DAY OF THE GROUP
PHOTOGRAPH.
HIS DESCRIPTIONS WERE SO VIVID
THAT I ALMOST FELT PERSONALLY
ACQUAINTED WITH THESE
CHARACTERS, AND ANGELINE, FOR
EXAMPLE, THE INVETERATE
MATCHMAKER... EVERY FAMILY HAS
ONE.
COUSIN LOLO, WHO HAD DISGUISED
HIMSELF IN TURN AS A FRENCH
ENGINEER, A BARRISTER, AN
ENGLISH TOURIST AND AN
EGYPTOLOGIST COMPLETE WITH
OUTSIZED SOLAR TOUPEE, PINCE-
NEZ AND PUTTEES.
DORA CONFIDES HER LOVE OF THIS
GLIB ROGUE'S HUMOUR TO HER
FRIEND LITA DIANJI.
"I FELL FOR HIM THE VERY FIRST
DAY," DORA CONFIDED TO LITA.
"BY THE TIME I SAW HIM NEXT
MORNING, I WAS IN LOVE.
THAT VOICE, THAT SMILE, HE IS
SO GENTLE."
THE AFFAIR WITH THE LITTLE
GIRL.
"BESIDES, HE IS SO AMUSING. I
SHALL NEVER GET BORED WHEN WE
ARE TOGETHER, I CAN SENSE IT."
NOW I WARMED WHEN I READ THAT
PASSAGE, BECAUSE I REMEMBERED
HOW, MORE THAN 30 YEARS AGO,
WHEN I WAS COURTING MY WIFE
PEARL, I WANTED HER TO LIKE
ME.
I THOUGHT SHE WAS THE MOST
FASCINATING, ATTRACTIVE PERSON
I HAD EVER MET.
AND SO I TOLD HER TALES OF MY
COLOURFUL FAMILY.
AS MILO TOLD DORA, I COME FROM
A LARGE AND COLOURFUL FAMILY.
MY FATHER WAS THE YOUNGEST OF
11 CHILDREN, MY MOTHER WAS THE
MIDDLE OF 15.
MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER WAS
ONE OF 25.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues I HAD AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF
MATERIAL FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE.
I TOLD PEARL STORIES OF MY
UNCLE HARRY, GENERAL BARTLETT,
WHO WAS AN AIDE TO CHIANG KAI-
SHEK DURING THE SECOND WAR.
I TOLD HER ABOUT MY UNCLE
CONRAD, WHO WAS A SPONGE
FISHERMAN IN GREECE, WHO HAD
TO RUN FOR HIS LIFE FROM ONE
OF HIS OWN BOATS DURING THE
GREEK CIVIL WAR, BECAUSE HE
WAS SELLING-- HE WAS FOUND TO
HAVE BEEN SELLING DEFECTIVE
MERCHANDISE TO BOTH SIDES.
I TOLD HER ABOUT MY GREAT AUNT
ELLA, A FISHWIFE IN WALES
MARKET IN SOMERSET, WHO GUTTED
A POLICEMAN WITH HER OWN
CLEANING KNIFE FOR MAKING
IMPROPER ADVANCES, AND THAT
WAS MY MOTHER'S SIDE OF THE
FAMILY.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues I TOLD PEARL
ABOUT MY FATHER'S FAMILY, A
FAMILY MAINLY OF EVANGELICAL
FUNDAMENTALIST WELSH
PREACHERS, WHO COULD BRING
THEIR CONGREGATIONS TO THE
VERY EDGE OF HELL, TO SMELL
THE BRIMSTONE AND WITNESS THE
PUNISHMENT THAT AWAITS ALL
SINNERS ON THAT TERRIBLE LAST
DAY OF JUDGEMENT.
[Applause and Laughter]
I KNEW I HAD
PEARL WHEN I FOUND THAT I
COULD MAKE HER LAUGH THROUGH
MY STORIES, SOME OF WHICH WERE
EVEN TRUE.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE FOR MILO
TO BE PROUD OF IN HIS FAMILY.
HIS UNCLE, DOCTOR TOUTA, A
CHARACTER IN OUR NOVEL, THE
HERO OF A CHOLERA EPIDEMIC
SOME YEARS BEFORE.
HIS COUSIN MAXIM, WHO HAD
FOUNDED THE GREAT NEWSPAPER,
SEMAPHORE D'ALEXANDRE, THAT'S
THE TITLE OF THE NOVEL THAT
PRECEDES THIS.
AND MAXIM, HIS COUSIN WAS THE
PROTAGONIST.
HIS COUSIN RESCALA [Inaudible]
TOUTA, WHO HAD FOUNDED A GREAT
CHAIN OF RETAIL STORES, WHO
HAD CAUSED A SHORT LIVED
SCANDAL BY TAKING A JEWISH
WIFE.
BUT EVEN WHEN MILO BOASTS OF
HIS RELATIVES, IT IS ALWAYS,
"WITH AN AIR OF AMUSEMENT,
WITH WHICH HE REGARDED PEOPLE
AND THINGS."
NOW MILO'S KINDNESS AND
GENTLENESS WITH THE CHILD AND
HIS HUMOUR ARE A VERY LARGE
PART OF WHY DORA FALLS IN LOVE
WITH HIM.
BUT THERE IS, OF COURSE, A
THIRD FINAL NECESSARY
INGREDIENT.
IT IS THE INGREDIENT THAT IS
ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO ALL
MARRIAGES, AND THAT IS
PHYSICAL PASSION, RECIPROCATED
PHYSICAL PASSION.
AFTER THEIR MARRIAGE, WHEN
DORA JOINS MILO IN THE
APARTMENT ABOVE THE CAIRO
STUDIO, THE FULL PHYSICALITY
OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS
UNLEASHED.
THE SLIGHTEST TOUCH COULD
BRING IT ON.
PAGE 31, "SHE SHIVERED AS HE
PLANTED A KISS ON THE NAPE OF
HER NECK.
IT WAS ALL SHE COULD DO NOT TO
HURL HERSELF INTO HIS ARMS.
BUT IF HE HAND CARESSED HER
BREAST, SHE WOULD HALF CLOSE
HER EYES AND ABANDON HERSELF
TO THE MOMENT."
AND THAT IS IN THE DAYTIME.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues DORA LIKE MILO IS INCREDIBLY
SENSUAL, AND SHE WILL PAY A
PRICE LATER IN THE NOVEL FOR
THAT SENSUALITY.
NOW MILO'S STUDIO IS AN
INTERESTING PLACE.
WE REMEMBER WHAT HE TOLD DORA
AS HE APPROACHED HER THAT
FIRST TIME ON THE BEACH, "YOU
REINVENT THE SEA,
MADEMOISELLE.
I REPRODUCE IT EXACTLY."
THE DIFFERENCE, AT THAT TIME,
PERHAPS, BETWEEN PAINTING AND
PHOTOGRAPHY.
NOW TO ENSURE THAT EXACT
REPRODUCTION OF HIS SUBJECT,
USUALLY PORTRAITS, MILO PLACES
HIS SUBJECTS IN NECK CLAMPS.
THEY ARE NOT TO MOVE FOR 30
SECONDS.
WE ALL REMEMBER THOSE BROWN
DAGUERREOTYPES OF OUR
FOREBEARS, STANDING, PETRIFIED
CAPTURED FOREVER IN FROZEN
CORPSE-LIKE POSES.
MILO IS ABSOLUTELY DEVOID OF
ANY CREATIVE IMAGINATION.
HE DOESN'T MIND, HOWEVER,
TOUCHING UP HIS PORTRAITS.
HE WILL REMOVE ANY BLEMISHES,
CROOKED NOSES OR WHATEVER, AND
WHEN DORA JOINS HIM IN
MARRIAGE WITH HER GIFT FOR
COLOUR, HE BEGINS TO COLOUR
THE PHOTOGRAPHS.
IT'S AN ADDED ATTRACTION IN
THE BUSINESS.
WHEN A YOUNG BRITISH OFFICER,
CAPTAIN WILLIAM ELLIOTT COMES
INTO THE STUDIO TO PICK UP AN
UNUSUALLY EXPRESSIONLESS
PORTRAIT OF HIMSELF, MILO
SAYS, WELL OF COURSE WE CAN
ADD COLOUR.
WOULD YOU PREFER, PERHAPS...
MAUVE EYES AND BLONDE HAIR?
INITIALLY, DORA SEES
PHOTOGRAPHY, MILO'S
PHOTOGRAPHY AS INFERIOR.
SHE MUST, THROUGH THE
TRANSFIGURATION OF THE SUBJECT
THAT PAINTING CAN AFFORD.
BUT THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN
PHOTOGRAPHY AND PAINTING
BECOMES BLURRED AS HER KEEN
INTELLIGENCE FOCUSES ON THE
SUBJECT.
SHE BEGINS TO TAKE AN INTEREST
IN THE PROCESS WHICH SHE
PREVIOUSLY DISDAINED.
SHE READS AN OLD BOOK ON
PHOTOGRAPHY SHE FINDS IN THE
STUDIO.
SHE PERSUADES MILO TO TEACH
HER HOW TO USE THE FIELD
CAMERA, HOW TO DEVELOP
PHOTOGRAPHS.
SHE PERSUADES HIM TO SUBSCRIBE
TO A PARIS MAGAZINE, L'AMATEUR
PHOTOGRAPHE.
AT FIRST, SHE
IS LIMITED TO COLOURING HIS
PORTRAITS, BUT SHE BEGINS TO
TAKE HER OWN BLACK AND WHITE
PHOTOGRAPHS AND SHE BEGINS TO
REALISE THE IMPORTANCE OF
LIGHT.
SHE BEGINS TO
EXPERIMENT USING THE GLASS,
THE GLASS ROOF OF THE STUDIO
AND REFLECTORS, AND THE RESULT
IS EARTH SHAKING TO HER.
"I NOW KNEW HOW TO EMPHASISE
OR DECREASE INDIVIDUAL PARTS
OF THE SUBJECT, AND LEND IT A
THREE DIMENSIONAL EFFECT.
LIGHT CAN DO ANYTHING, I KEPT
TELLING MYSELF, LIGHT IS A
MAGICIAN."
SHE BEGINS TO UNDERSTAND HOW
IMPORTANT SHE, THE
PHOTOGRAPHER IS IN THE
PROCESS.
SLOWLY, INSTINCTIVELY SHE
WORKS HER WAY TO A MASTERY OF
HER SUBJECT, FIRST CAPTURING
SPONTANEOUS PORTRAITS, AND
THEN FINALLY, AFTER YEARS OF
EXPERIMENT, SHE COMES TO A
COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING AS SHE
TELLS HER FRIEND, THE POET,
IBRAHIM, "I TRANSMIT MY
EMOTIONS TO MY SUBJECTS.
I DOMINATE THEM, ALMOST AS IF
I WERE POINTING A GUN AT THEM.
THOSE MOMENTS ARE VERY TENSE,
VERY DISTURBING.
MY PHOTOGRAPHS, THE SUCCESSFUL
ONES AT LEAST, CONVEY WHAT I
WAS FEELING WHEN I TOOK THEM.
THEY ARE ALMOST SELF
PORTRAITS."
SHE HAS DISCOVERED THAT SHE IS
LIKE THE ROMANTIC POETS,
WORDSWORTH, BYRON, SHELLEY,
KEATS, OR THE IMPRESSIONIST
PAINTERS.
SHE NOW KNOWS, DORA, THAT WHAT
SHE IS DOING IS RENDERING, NOT
THE SUBJECT, BUT HER
PERCEPTION OF THE SUBJECT.
SHE IS NOT ONLY THE CREATOR,
SHE IS A PART AND A CONDITION
OF THE CREATED OBJECT.
I FOUND HER PROGRESS
FASCINATING.
I DIDN'T MIND AT ALL THE
LESSONS IN PHOTOGRAPHIC
TECHNIQUE, FOR WHAT THAT IS,
WHAT THE NOVEL IS, IN PART,
IT'S WHAT ALL NOVELS HAVE BEEN
SINCE THE FIRST NOVEL APPEARED
IN ENGLISH IN 1740, 261 YEARS
AGO, YOU CANNOT THINK OF A
SERIOUS NOVEL THAT HAS
REMAINED WITH YOU WHERE YOU
DID NOT LEARN SOMETHING OTHER
THAN THE PSYCHOLOGICAL
PORTRAIT OF THE PROTAGONIST.
SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 1740,
THE NOVEL IN ENGLISH HAS HAD A
TEACHING PURPOSE, A DIDACTIC
PURPOSE.
THE NOVEL WAS CREATED, WAS
WRITTEN FOR, IS WRITTEN FOR,
WILL ALWAYS BE WRITTEN FOR, AN
INTENSELY CURIOUS MIDDLE
CLASS.
I LOVED WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT
PHOTOGRAPHY, AND ABOUT DORA'S
PHOTOGRAPHY.
I LOVED HER INGENIOUS
SOLUTIONS TO ALL HER PROBLEMS.
FOR EXAMPLE, HER FRIEND, THE
POET, IBRAHIM, SAYS, WHY DON'T
YOU PHOTOGRAPH MY UNCLE, THE
MINISTER OF INFORMATION, AN
IMPORTANT MAN?
THE POINT IS, HE IS GROSS, HE
IS CORPULENT, HE IS OBESE, BUT
DORA FINDS THE ANSWER.
SHE PHOTOGRAPHS HIM NEXT TO A
PIECE OF FURNITURE EVEN BIGGER
THAN HE IS.
AND I WENT TO PHOTOGRAPHS BY
GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS, STIEGLITZ
AND THE LIKE, AND I REALISED
THAT THAT'S TRUE.
IF YOU PHOTOGRAPH BIG NEXT TO
BIGGER, IT MAKES IT LOOK
SMALLER, AND I LEARNED
SOMETHING.
NOW AS THE 1890s PASS, AND AS
DORA BEARS THREE DAUGHTERS,
HER PORTRAITS BECOME MORE AND
MORE SOUGHT AFTER.
COPIES OF HER PORTRAITS OF
WELL KNOWN FIGURES ARE SOLD IN
STORES THROUGHOUT CAIRO.
NOW IT ISN'T EASY FOR DORA TO
TAKE OVER COMPLETELY FROM MILO
IN THE STUDIO.
WHEN SHE FIRST, IN THE EARLY
YEARS OF MARRIAGE, SUGGESTS A
RENOVATION, HE IS OPPOSED.
BUT DORA, OUR MAMELOUKA, IS A
COMPLEX PERSON.
SHE HAS TO BE, OTHERWISE SHE
WOULDN'T BE A WORTHY
PROTAGONIST.
SHE IS NOT ABOVE USING HER
SENSUALITY AND HER SEXUALITY
TO MANIPULATE HER HUSBAND.
WHEN SHE FIRST SUGGESTS
RENOVATION, MILO IS OFFENDED.
HE IS THE LORD OF THE HOUSE,
THE MASTER OF THE HOME.
"I," DORA SAID, "WAS TOO PROUD
AFTER OUR QUARREL TO MAKE THE
FIRST MOVE.
HE ENDED BY RESTING HIS HAND
ON MY STOMACH IN AN AMBIGUOUS
WAY.
MOMENTS LATER, UNABLE TO
RESTRAIN HIMSELF, HE PRESSED
UP AGAINST ME.
OUR LIPS PROMPTLY SOUGHT AND
FOUND EACH OTHER.
HE SMOTHERED ME WITH CARESSES
THROUGH MY NIGHTGOWN, THEN HE
UNDRESSED ME WITH FEVERISH
HASTE, AND I FELT MYSELF
TRANSFIXED BY THE STRENGTH AND
THE WARMTH OF HIM."
"AFTERWARDS,
WHEN THE OIL LAMP WAS LIT, I
SAID, 'YOU UPSET ME EARLIER
ON.
WILL YOU NOT REALLY TAKE A
LOOK AT MY PLANS?' I WHISPERED
IN HIS EAR.
'BUT YOU TORE THEM UP.'
'I MIGHT BE ABLE TO RECREATE THEM.'
THE WORKMEN TACKLED THE STUDIO
THE VERY NEXT DAY."

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues THERE IS A GREAT DEAL TO
COMPENSATE MILO FOR ANY
HUMILIATION HE MIGHT FEEL AT
HIS WIFE'S MANIFEST
PROFESSIONAL SUPERIORITY, WHAT
WITH HIS CARRIAGE, HIS
COACHMEN, HIS THREE
MAIDSERVANTS AND HIS SUITS
MADE BY THE BEST TAILOR IN
CAIRO.
THEY BEGIN TO GIVE WEDNESDAY
EVENING SOIREES, AND
INVITATIONS TO THEIR SOIREES
ARE EAGERLY SOUGHT AFTER, EVEN
BY MEMBERS OF THE FRENCH
COMMUNITY.
NOW MILO, TYPICAL OF THE GREEK
CATHOLICS, THE SYRIANS, THE
SHAWAM, IS INTENSELY PROUD OF
HAVING FRENCH ACQUAINTANCES.
CHIEF AMONG THEM ARE THE
MERCHANT, NORBERT PAPINEAU,
AND HIS WIFE SOLANGE.
NORBERT PAPINEAU, THE
FRENCHMAN, LIVING IN CAIRO, IS
A VERY USEFUL NARRATIVE DEVICE
FOR SOLE, BECAUSE IT IS
THROUGH PAPINEAU AT THE
WEDNESDAY EVENING SOIREES,
THAT WE LEARN WHAT IS
HAPPENING POLITICALLY BETWEEN
THE BRITISH AND THE FRENCH.
IT IS THROUGH PAPINEAU THAT WE
LEARN JUST HOW PERFIDIOUS AND
CUNNING THE BRITISH ARE, AS
SEEN BY FRENCH EYES.
WHEN THE BRITISH, LORD CROMER,
ORDER THE KADIV TO RE-ATTACK,
RE-INVADE, RE-SUBJUGATE THE
SUDAN IN 1895, IT IS PAPINEAU
WHO EXPLAINS WHY THEY HAVE
WAITED 11 YEARS SINCE THE
DEATH OF GORDON AT KHARTOUM,
TO AVENGE GORDON'S DEATH, TO
RETAKE THE SUDAN.
I HAD WONDERED MYSELF.
I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE PERIOD.
I HAD NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY, IF
GENERAL GORDON WAS MURDERED,
OR WAS KILLED IN 1885, JANUARY
26, WHY DID THE BRITISH NOT
LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN FOR 11 YEARS
TO RETAKE THE SUDAN FROM THE
MAHDI, AND HIS SUCCESSOR THE
CALIPH ABDULLA?
AND I'M GIVEN THE EXPLANATION,
BRILLIANTLY IN THE NOVEL,
THROUGH NORBERT PAPINEAU,
"THAT'S EASY, MY FRIEND, SAID
NORBERT.
IN RECENT YEARS IT'S BEEN IN
BRITAIN'S INTEREST NOT TO
RETAKE THE SUDAN.
BY POINTING TO THE ILLUSORY
MENACE OF THE MAHDI, SHE,
BRITAIN, COULD POSE AS EGYPT'S
PROTECTOR, AND JUSTIFY HER
CONTINUED OCCUPATION."
INITIALLY IN 1882, BRITAIN HAD
OCCUPIED EGYPT TO PROTECT HER
INVESTMENTS, THE BANKS, THAT
PART OF THE SUEZ CANAL THAT
THEY OWNED, THE RAILWAY
SYSTEM, AND THEY STAYED THERE,
THE BRITISH, BY SAYING, WELL,
YOU MAY BE ATTACKED FROM THE
SUDAN BY THE MAHDI.
NOT THAT OTHER EUROPEAN ARMIES
ARE INTERESTED IN THE SUDAN,
CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS MILITARY
CAMPAIGN, BEGINNING IN 1896,
IS TO FORESTALL THE OTHER
POWERS.
HOW BRILLIANT.
IT IS THROUGH PAPINEAU THAT WE
LEARN HOW THE FRENCH
EXPEDITION IS CROSSING AFRICA
FROM SENEGAL AND GABON, AND
APPROACHING SOUTHERN SUDAN,
APPROACHING FASHODA, HOW IT
GETS THERE IN 1898, AND FACES
OFF WITH THE BRITISH AND THE
RECENTLY VICTORIOUS LORD
KITCHENER.
WE ARE TREATED TO SIDELIGHTS
OF DIVISIONS WITHIN THE FRENCH
COMMUNITY, HOW THEY DIVIDED IN
1894 OVER THE DREYFUSS AFFAIR
THAT EXPLODED IN FRANCE, HOW
THEY HAVE BEEN ARGUING FOR
YEARS OVER THE RELATIVE MERITS
OF FRENCH AND ITALIAN OPERA,
EVER SINCE VERDI'S AIDA WAS
STAGED AT THE PYRAMIDS IN
1871, TWO YEARS AFTER THE
OPENING OF THE SUEZ CANAL, TO
CELEBRATE THAT EVENT.
FASCINATING HISTORICAL TRIVIA,
AND JUST AS PAPINEAU KEEPS US
ABREAST OF FRENCH FEELING, AND
FRENCH JEALOUSY OF THE
ENGLISH, SO DO WE LEARN OF THE
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE
EGYPTIAN NATIONALIST FEELING
THROUGH ANOTHER GUEST AT THE
WEDNESDAY SOIREES, SAIF ABDUL,
AN EGYPTIAN MUSLIM, ONCE A LAW
STUDENT, NOW A LAWYER, AND A
STRONG MEMBER OF THE
NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, A
MOVEMENT FOR THE BRITISH TO
LEAVE.
IT IS DIFFICULT FOR US TO
REALISE HOW THE EGYPTIANS FELT
AT THAT TIME.
IT IS DIFFICULT FOR US TO
IMAGINE THE UTTER SUBSERVIENCE
OF THE EGYPTIANS TO THE
BRITISH OCCUPIER, SINCE 1882.
SOMETIMES WE ARE PRESENTED IT
BY SOLE IN THE GUISE OF
COMEDY.
AT ONE SOIREE, MILO AMUSES THE
GUESTS BY READING A NEW
EGYPTIAN POLICE REGULATION.
I QUOTE, "MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL
POPULATION WILL REFRAIN FROM
APPROACHING INEBRIATED BRITISH
SOLDIERS, BUT ARE DUTY BOUND
TO ASSIST THEM."
IN OTHER WORDS, A DRUNKEN
BRITISH SOLDIER WAS STILL KING
OF THE CAIRO STREETS IN THE
1890s, AND IT IS SMALL WONDER
THAT A GROWING, BETTER
EDUCATED EGYPTIAN YOUTH,
PEOPLE LIKE SAIF ABDUL SHOULD
SO LONG FOR EGYPTIAN FREEDOM.
THEY PINNED THEIR HOPES ON
THEIR KADIV, THE NEW KADIV,
THE NEW VICEROY IN 1892, THE
NEW KADIV, ABBAS, ABBAS II.
THEY LOVED HIM, THEY CALLED
HIM OUR EFFENDI.
BUT HE HAD NO
POWER, NO REAL POWER.
WHEN ABBAS NOMINATED A PRIME
MINISTER, LORD CROMER, THE
BRITISH AGENT, SAID, NOT HIM,
HIM.
WHEN THE
KADIV ABBAS WANTED TO TAKE A
HOLIDAY IN EUROPE, HIS OTHER
MASTER, THE CALIPH OF ISLAM,
THE SULTAN OF TURKEY SAID,
DON'T GO TO EUROPE,
POLITICALLY DANGEROUS.
WHEN THE KADIV, ABBAS II,
WANTED TO MARRY ONE OF HIS
FAVOURITE SLAVES, HIS MASTER,
THE CALIPH OF ISLAM, THE
SULTAN OF TURKEY SAID,
POLITICALLY UNWISE.
I FELT SORRY FOR THIS MAN.
WITH TWO MASTERS, THE BRITISH
LORD CROMER AND THE SULTAN OF
TURKEY, THE LEADER OF ISLAM.
I FELT SORRY FOR HIM.
HE WAS VENAL, HE WAS CORRUPT,
BUT SO WAS THE WHOLE OF
SOCIETY, THE BRITISH, THE
FRENCH AND EVERY EGYPTIAN DOWN
THROUGH EVERY RANK.
THERE WAS NO EGYPTIAN
OFFICIAL, WE ARE TOLD, WHO HAD
AN INTERVIEW WITHOUT HIS DESK
DRAWER OPEN, SO THAT HE COULD
RECEIVE THE CUSTOMARY
BAKSHEESH.
THE KADIV IS NOT A STUPID MAN.
WHEN OUR MAMELOUKA, DORA, IS
INVITED TO TAKE HIS
PHOTOGRAPH, THE KADIV DOESN'T
KNOW SHE IS A WOMAN.
SHE COMES DRESSED AS A MAN
INTO THE KADIVAL PALACE.
THE KADIV SEES THROUGH HER.
BUT FOR HER BRILLIANT PORTRAIT
AND FOR HER AUDACITY, HE SENDS
HER A DIAMOND NECKLACE.
VENAL AND CORRUPT AS HE IS,
THE KADIV ABBAS HATES THE
BRITISH.
AND AS SUCH HE IS THE IDOL OF
THE EGYPTIAN MASSES WITH THEIR
GROWING SENSE OF NATIONALISM.
THEIR BEGINNING OF NATIONAL
PRIDE.
THE WEDNESDAY EVENING SOIREES
DO NOT ONLY KEEP US ABREAST OF
POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS, THE
FRENCH JEALOUSY OF THE
ENGLISH, EGYPTIAN NATIONALISM,
THERE ARE AMOROUS DALLIANCES.
WHEN SOLANGE PAPINEAU, THE
FRENCH WOMAN COMES ONE
EVENING, SHE TALKS ABOUT
RIDING HER BICYCLE AND SHE
BECAME OVERHEATED.
SO SHE WENT TO A HAMAM, A
TURKISH BATH, MASSAGE PARLOUR
AND SHE SAYS SHE TOOK A
MASSAGE.
WELL SHE HAD A MASSAGE GIVEN
TO HER, AND SHE DESCRIBES IT
TO MILO, HEAVY, SEXUAL,
SENSUAL MILO, AND THIS IS WHAT
SHE TELLS HIM HAPPENED.
"ENTERING A SWELTERING ROOM,
STARK NAKED, AND ABANDONING
MYSELF TO EXPERT HANDS WHOSE
TOUCH IMPELLED ME TO MOAN WITH
PLEASURE..."
SHE'S TELLING THE WRONG
PERSON.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues BECAUSE IF WE ADD TO MILO'S
IMAGINATION HIS ADORATION OF
THE FRENCH AND FRENCH CULTURE,
FOR 100 YEARS SINCE NAPOLEON,
WE CAN HARDLY BE SURPRISED
WHEN MILO AND SOLANGE ENTER
UPON A BRIEF AFFAIR.
THERE IS NOTHING OF LOVE IN
IT.
MILO BELIEVES THAT HE IS IN
INTIMATE CONTACT WITH HIS
BELOVED, THE NEVER SEEN
FRANCE.
I QUOTE, "MILO COULD HARDLY
BELIEVE THE EVIDENCE OF HIS
HANDS.
THIS WAS A FRENCH WOMAN, BORN
IN FRANCE, WHO WAS MOANING
UNDER HIS CARESSES.
LATER, ON EMERGING INTO THE
PASSAGE, MILO THOUGHT HE
DETECTED A CONGRATULATORY
EXPRESSION ON THE FACE OF THE
FLOOR WAITER, BUT PERHAPS THAT
WAS MERELY WISHFUL THINKING."
THE NOVEL, NOT JUST THE
WEDNESDAY EVENING SOIREES, IS
FULL OF DELICIOUS TRIVIA,
DELICIOUS HISTORICAL
FOOTNOTES.
FOR EXAMPLE, IT WOULD NEVER
HAVE OCCURRED TO ME THAT WHEN
THE MAHDI DESTROYED GENERAL
GORDON IN KHARTOUM IN 1885, HE
DISRUPTED THE NORTH SOUTH
TRADE IN OSTRICH FEATHERS.
YOU KNOW OSTRICH FEATHERS, SO
IMPORTANT A COMPONENT OF
VICTORIAN FINERY IN EUROPE.
AND ONE OF THE SHAWAM, THE
GREEK CATHOLICS, THIS TINY
COMMUNITY SAW HIS CHANCE,
RICHARD YONGEE.
OSTRICH FEATHERS COULDN'T BE
BROUGHT UP OUT OF THE SUDAN
ANY MORE, SO HE OPENS UP AN
OSTRICH FARM JUST SOUTH OF
CAIRO AND BECOMES A
MILLIONAIRE.
FASCINATING.
FASCINATING.
WE GET...
WE ARE TOLD THAT THE THOMAS
COOK TRAVEL AGENCY IN THE
1890s, CREATED A DISNEY WORLD
IN EGYPT.
IF, YOU KNOW, THAT THE THOMAS
COOK TRAVEL AGENCY WAS FOUNDED
TO GIVE POOR CLERGYMEN A CHEAP
HOLIDAY BY GETTING THEM BETTER
RATES AT HOTELS?
THAT'S HOW THOMAS COOK STARTED
HIS BUSINESS.
BUT THEN HE LATCHED ON...
EGYPT, YOU COULD DO ANYTHING
WITH EGYPT.
IF A BRITISH TOURIST BOUGHT A
TICKET FOR EGYPT, YOU GOT
INCLUDED A TICKET TO THE
KADIV'S ANNUAL BALL, A
RECEPTION BY THE WIFE OF THE
KADIV.
THE MOST
VULGAR BRITISH TOURIST WAS
KING OF EGYPT.
BRITISH
TOURISTS NEVER FAIL TO
SURPRISE ME.
WE ARE OFTEN IN EUROPE, PEARL
AND I, AND MY BOWELS OFTEN
SHRIVEL WHEN I HEAR MY
COMPATRIOTS.
THEY ALL BELIEVE THAT ENGLISH
IS UNDERSTOOD BY EVERYONE IF
IT IS SHOUTED LOUDLY ENOUGH.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues THEY ARE JUST PRETENDING NOT
TO UNDERSTAND.
ONE BRITISH TOURIST, A WOMAN,
SEES OUR MAMELOUKA TRAVELLING
ON A TRAIN FROM CAIRO ALL THE
WAY DOWN TO KHARTOUM, AND THIS
BRIT FEELS FREE TO CONDESCEND,
"YOU'RE A NATIVE AND YOU'RE
TRAVELLING ALONE, THE WOMAN
EXPLAINED WITH THE AVID
EXPRESSION OF THE TOURIST WHO
HAD JUST DISCOVERED A
CURIOSITY."
THERE ARE DELICIOUS HISTORICAL
TRIVIA.
WE GET THE EXCITING STORY OF
SLATIN PASHA.
WHEN GORDON FELL IN KHARTOUM,
IN 1885, THERE WAS AN AUSTRIAN
IN KHARTOUM, RUDOLF SLATIN.
HE SAVED HIMSELF BY CONVERTING
TO ISLAM AND BECOMING THE
MAHDI'S ADVISOR, A SLATIN
PASHA.
AFTER 12 YEARS, HE MANAGED TO
ESCAPE ACROSS THE DESERT, UP
TO CAIRO.
HE RECEIVES A HERO'S WELCOME,
A GREAT RECEPTION AND HE IS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY THE MAMELOUKA.
WE HAVE MARVELLOUS DICKENSIAN
PORTRAITS OF MINOR CHARACTERS.
THERE IS MILO'S UNCLE, UNCLE
OSCAR.
THREE TIMES A YEAR HE CAME TO
MILO'S STUDIO TO BE
PHOTOGRAPHED, BUT HE WAS
ALWAYS CONVINCED THAT THE
PHOTOGRAPH WOULD STEAL SOME
PART OF HIS SOUL AND THAT THE
CAMERA WOULD BLOW UP AND HURT
HIM.
EVERY TIME, THREE TIMES A
YEAR, HE WOULD RUN OUT OF THE
STUDIO AT THE LAST MOMENT.
MILO SAID, AT ONE POINT, THERE
GOES MY MOST FAITHFUL NON-
CUSTOMER.
UNTIL OF COURSE THE MAMELOUKA
COMES INTO THE BUSINESS.
SHE PRETENDS THE CAMERA IS
BROKEN AND SURREPTITIOUSLY SHE
TAKES A WONDERFUL PORTRAIT OF
UNCLE OSCAR AND THEN THEY
CAN'T KEEP HIM OUT OF THE
STUDIO, COMING BACK FOR MORE,
MORE PHOTOGRAPHS.
BUT OF COURSE THE BEST MINOR
CHARACTER OF ALL IS MILO'S
MOTHER NONA.
LIKE MILO AND DORA, SHE IS
ATYPICAL OF THE SHAWAM,
SYRIAN, GREEK CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY.
SHE TAKES FRIENDS FROM OUTSIDE
THE CLOSELY KNIT COMMUNITY.
SHE, AT HER, AT HOMES, ARE
BOTH MUSLIM AND COPTIC LADIES,
NO MEN, OF COURSE, THIS IS
1891, LEADING TO 1898.
EXCEPT OF COURSE FOR MILO.
MILO IS ALWAYS WELCOME WITH
THE LADIES.
"THIS CHARMING YOUNG MAN WHOSE
GOOD HUMOUR MADE THEM FORGET,
WHILE HE WAS WITH THEM, THEIR
DIABETES AND VARICOSE VEINS."
MILO IS THE CHARMER.
NONA, HIS MOTHER IS A LIFE
LOVING POSITIVE LIFE FORCE,
THE MATRIARCH.
"THE ALMIGHTY UNDERSTANDS ME,"
SHE USED TO SAY WITH A KNOWING
SMILE AS SHE SWILLED HER GLASS
OF ARAK AROUND THE ICE IN THE
GLASS.
ARAK, ZABIB, ANISETTE,
ABSINTHE.
WHEN DORA MARRIES HER SON,
THESE TWO STRONG WOMEN ENTER A
PERIOD OF MUTUAL APPRAISAL AND
OBSERVATION, BUT THEY SOON
DEVELOP A RESPECT, EVEN AN
AFFECTION.
NOW WHEN MILO'S SISTERS ARE
CRITICAL OF DORA, AND HIS
SISTERS-IN-LAW, THE WIVES OF
HIS BROTHERS, WHEN THEY MAKE
DISPARAGING COMMENTS ABOUT THE
MAMELOUKA AND HER BUSINESS
SUCCESS, NONA IS QUICK TO
QUELL THE OPPOSITION TO HER
KINDRED STRONG SPIRIT.
ALBERT'S
WIFE, ALBERT, ONE OF MILO'S
BROTHERS... ALBERT'S WIFE HAD
BEEN HEARD TO TELL HER
YOUNGEST DAUGHTER, GO ON
MISBEHAVING THIS WAY AND
YOU'LL END UP LIKE THE
MAMELOUKA.
NONA WAS
INCENSED BY THE REMARK WHEN IT
CAME TO HER.
THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY INSTEAD
OF KISSING HER DAUGHTER-IN-
LAW, SHE PROFFERED A CHILLY
CHEEK, AND ASKED HER WHY SHE
PERSISTED IN WEARING FLORAL
DRESSES TOO YOUNG FOR HER,
THAT MADE HER LOOK FAT.
YES!

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues BUT AS DORA'S PORTRAITS COME
TO INCLUDE STUDIES OF THE
GREATEST IN THE LAND, ALL THE
FOREIGN DIPLOMATS, THE KADIV,
EVEN LORD CROMER THE BRITISH
AGENT HIMSELF, CRACKS APPEAR
IN THE MARRIAGE.
I QUOTE, "THE HIGHER SHE
CLIMBED, THE MORE HUMILIATED
MILO FELT.
HIS JEALOUSY WAS ALL THE
KEENER BECAUSE HE HAD LITTLE
CAUSE TO REPROACH HIS WIFE."
AND THE FINAL INSULT COMES TO
MILO WHEN A NEW CUSTOMER COMES
INTO HIS STORE AND ASKS
INNOCENTLY, "AREN'T YOU THE
FELLOW THEY CALL THE MAMELOUK?
IT REMINDED ME OF THAT GREAT
MOVIE, A STAR IS BORN, NORMAN
MAIN, WHEN HIS WIFE SUPERSEDES
HIM.
HE IS HUMILIATED, I AM NOT THE
HUSBAND OF THE MAMELOUKA, I AM
NOT THE MAMELOUK.
HE GOES HOME, THERE IS A ROW,
AND HE SLAPS HIS WIFE.
DORA, FOR A WOMAN AS STRONG
AND FREE SPIRITED AS DORA,
THAT ABUSE IS INSUPPORTABLE.
SHE GIVES OVER THE CHILDREN
INTO THE CARE, TEMPORARILY, OF
HER GREAT FRIEND, LITA TIAMJI,
AND SHE ACCEPTS AN OFFER BY
MILO'S COUSIN MAXIM,
PROTAGONIST OF THE NOVEL THAT
PRECEDED THIS, THE OWNER OF
THE NEWSPAPER SEMAPHORE
D'ALEXANDRE, TO GO DOWN TO THE
SUDAN, TO KHARTOUM AND
OMDURMAN, AND TO FILM THE
AFTERMATH OF THE GREAT VICTORY
OVER THE DERVISHES.
IT'S NOW 1898, BY LORD
KITCHENER.
FOR THE MOMENT, THE MARRIAGE
IS AT AN END.
IN THE SUDAN AT OMDURMAN,
KHARTOUM, SHE AGAIN MEETS THAT
BRITISH OFFICER, CAPTAIN
WILLIAM ELLIOTT WHO ONCE CAME
INTO THE STUDIO, WHO HAS BEEN
INFATUATED WITH HER FOR YEARS,
WHO HAS WRITTEN HER LETTERS
WHICH SHE HAS NEVER ANSWERED,
WHO WAS PASSING THROUGH CAIRO
AGAIN ON HIS WAY TO JOIN LORD
KITCHENER AT KHARTOUM, WAS
REINFATUATED.
SHE ACCEPTS HIS OFFER TO GUIDE
HER AROUND THE FORMER
BATTLEFIELDS.
HER PHOTOGRAPHS ARE
UNIVERSALLY ACCLAIMED.
SHE IS FETED.
WORD COMES BACK TO CAIRO AND
THE ABANDONED MILO THAT, "THE
MAMELOUKA HAS ENSLAVED THE
WHOLE OF KHARTOUM."
THE HEADINESS OF HER SUCCESS
AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, THE
ATTENTION OF A DEDICATED
BRITISH ADMIRER, AND THE
SENSUALITY OF HER OWN NATURE
LEAD HER TO YIELD TO THE
ATTENTIONS OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM
ELLIOTT.
BUT THE PHYSICAL PASSION
DOESN'T MAKE UP FOR WHAT MILO
OFFERED HER, HIS GENTLENESS
AND HIS HUMOUR, "TWO HOURS
LATER, IN THAT OVERLY NARROW
BED WITH ITS COARSE ILL-IRONED
SHEETS, DORA WAS STARING UP AT
THE RAY OF MOONLIGHT ON THE
CEILING.
SHE HAD CLASPED THAT FAIR
SKINNED BODY TO HER IN A
PAROXYSM OF DESIRE, KISSED IT,
LICKED IT, RAKED IT WITH HER
NAILS.
NOW IT WAS OVER AND SHE FELT
NOTHING.
NONE OF THE BOUNDLESS
CONTENTMENT THAT HAD SO OFTEN
FILLED HER WHEN SHE AND MILO
HAD MADE LOVE."
IN CAIRO, RUMOURS OF THE
MAMELOUKA AND THE ENGLISH
OFFICER ARE RIFE, JUST AS
THERE IS GOSSIP ABOUT MILO'S
ASSIGNMENT WITH SOLANGE
PAPINEAU THE FRENCH WOMAN IN
THE HOTEL.
MILO IS MISERABLE, CAN'T EAT,
CANNOT SHAVED, CONTEMPLATES
SUICIDE.
EVERYTHING IS NOW CLEAR TO
HIM, I QUOTE, "HE NOT ONLY
COULD BUT SHOULD HAVE ACTED
DIFFERENTLY FROM THE VERY
FIRST.
HE HATED PHOTOGRAPHY, IF THE
TRUTH BE TOLD.
HE HATED
SPENDING HOURS ON END IN THE
DARKROOM, DEVELOPING PLATES AS
DORA USED TO DO.
WHAT INTERESTED HIM WAS
GREETING CUSTOMERS."
INDEED, HE
FOUND THAT FASCINATING.
HE SENSED THAT HE EXCELLED AT
THE COMMERCIAL SIDE OF THE
BUSINESS AND WAS BRIMMING WITH
IDEAS ON HOW TO EXPAND IT.
FOR HER PART, IN A LETTER TO
LITA TIAMJI, DORA CONFESSES, I
QUOTE, "IF I STILL HAD A
CHANCE OF RESUMING MY FORMER
PLACE, HOWEVER, I'M CONVINCED
I'D BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY.
BY THAT I MEAN I WOULD PAY AS
MUCH ATTENTION TO OTHER PEOPLE
AS I DO TO MY SUBJECTS.
ABOVE ALL, I MISS THE MAN IN
WHOSE COMPANY I WAS NEVER
BORED, BUT WHOM I DIDN'T KNOW
HOW TO LOVE AS HE DESERVED.
I KNOW WHERE I BELONG, I DREAM
OF RETURNING THERE, BUT I'M
AFRAID IT'S TOO LATE."
BUT IT'S NOT TOO LATE.
THE FINAL SCENE OF THE NOVEL
IS ON THE SAME BEACH NEAR
ALEXANDRIA WHERE THEY FIRST
MET... WHERE ELSE.
TRADITIONALLY IN LITERATURE,
LAND IS THE MALE PRINCIPLE AND
THE SEA IS THE FEMALE
PRINCIPLE AND IT IS FITTING
THAT A NOVEL ABOUT LOVE SHOULD
BEGIN AND END WHERE THE LAND
MEETS THE SEA.
THIS NOVEL HAS BEEN A SATIRE
AND THE MOVEMENT OF SATIRE IS
CIRCULAR.
IT MUST END WHERE IT BEGAN.
IT'S SOMETHING LEARNED, BUT IT
ENDS IN A COMPROMISE, SATIRES
ALWAYS DO.
THERE ARE ONLY FOUR VISIONS
AVAILABLE IN A NARRATIVE,
ROMANCE, COMEDY, TRAGEDY AND
SATIRE.
I HAVE SAID THIS BEFORE, BUT I
WILL SAY IT AGAIN, ROMANCE...
I'M TAKING THIS FROM MY BIBLE
OF CRITICISM, NORTHROP FRYE'S,
ANATOMY OF CRITICISM, ROMANCE
IS WHEN, IN A POSITIVE
UNIVERSE, YOU HAVE A POSITIVE
PROTAGONIST.
HANDSOME HUBERT RIDES THROUGH
A BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE AND
EVERYTHING ENDS WELL.
IT IS THE STUFF OF HARLEQUIN
ROMANCES, IT'S FOR CHILDREN
AND DEFECTIVES.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues THEN THE OTHER VISION...
NORTHROP FRYE CALLS THEM
[Inaudible].
THE SECOND VISION, COMEDY.
AGAIN YOU HAVE A POSITIVE
UNIVERSE, BUT THE PROTAGONIST
IS WEAK, A LITTLE STUPID, NOT
QUITE UNDERSTANDING.
THINK OF THE COMEDIES OF JIMMY
STEWART, ESPECIALLY THOSE MADE
BY FRANK KAPRA THROUGH THE
WAR.
THINK OF, IT'S A WONDERFUL
LIFE.
THE WORLD IS BENEVOLENT, THE
HERO DOESN'T QUITE GET IT
RIGHT, BUT THE WORLD IS SO
BENEVOLENT... BY THE WORLD I
MEAN THE UNIVERSE, FATE, GOD,
EVERYTHING... THAT IN THE END,
THEY FORCE A COMIC
RECONCILIATION OF EVERYTHING,
AND THE WEAK PROTAGONIST IS
REUNITED AS PART OF THE WHOLE,
USUALLY IN A DANCE OR A SONG
OR A PARTY OR A WEDDING.
NOW THOSE ARE THE TWO VISIONS
OF A POSITIVE UNIVERSE.
STRONG PROTAGONIST ROMANCE,
WEAK PROTAGONIST, COMEDY.
THEY BOTH END WELL.
THEN WE TAKE THE TRUER VISION
OF THE UNIVERSE, WHICH HAS TO
BE THE THAT HAS TO BE THAT THE
UNIVERSE IS HOSTILE TO US.
WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE MORE
THAN HALF THE PEOPLE DON'T EAT
ENOUGH.
250 MILLION CHILDREN ARE IN
SLAVERY.
THE WORLD IS HOSTILE, NATURE
IS HOSTILE, DESTINY IS
HOSTILE.
NOW, YOU TAKE A PROTAGONIST
WHO CAN LOOK AT THAT UNIVERSE
AND DEFY IT, AND YOU HAVE A
TRAGEDY.
VERY RARE, VERY RARE.
GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE, NOT IN
LITERATURE, BUT IN REAL LIFE.
1939, THE GERMANS INVADE
POLAND.
THE PANZERS, THE TANKS
CROSSING THE PLAIN TOWARD
WARSAW.
THE POLISH CAVALRY PUTS ON
FULL DRESS UNIFORM AND WITH
ITS BANDS, LINES UP AND WITH
THE MUSIC, CHARGES THE TANKS
WITH LANCE AND SWORD.
THEY KNOW THEY CANNOT WIN, BUT
THAT IS TRAGEDY.
IN LITERATURE, IT IS MACBETH.
MACBETH, AT THE END, WHO
KNOWS, THE WITCHES HAVE LIED
TO HIM, FATE HAS LIED TO HIM,
HISTORY HAS LIED TO HIM, HIS
WIFE HAS COMMITTED SUICIDE, HE
HAS NO FRIENDS, HIS ARMIES
HAVE LEFT, HE IS ALONE ON THE
BATTLEFIELD, AND McDUFF, HIS
OPPONENT OFFERS HIM LIFE AS A
SIDE SHOW.
HE SAYS, "LIVE, TYRANT, TO BE
THE SHOW AND GAZE OF THE
TIME."
AND MACBETH, WHO KNOWS HE WILL
LOSE, SAYS, "LAY ON, McDUFF,
AND DAMNED BE HIM THAT FIRST
CRIES HOLD, ENOUGH."
IN OTHER WORDS, HE KNOWS HE
WILL LOSE, BUT HE GOES ON
FIGHTING.
AND EVEN IN THAT, HE AFFIRMS
THE GREATNESS, THE POTENTIAL
OF THE HUMAN INDIVIDUAL.
FEW OF US CAN RISE TO TRAGEDY.
THEN WE COME TO SATIRE.
SATIRE IS THE FOURTH VISION.
IT'S A VISION OF A FALLEN
IMPERFECT WORLD, A HOSTILE
WORLD AND A WEAK PROTAGONIST.
AND THAT IS 99 percent OF ALL
LITERATURE.
IT ENDS IN A COMPROMISE, IT
ENDS WITHOUT A TRAGIC
DEFIANCE, IT ENDS WHERE IT
BEGAN.
THIS IS THE
PERFECT SATIRE.
WE HAVE SEEN IMPERFECT PEOPLE
MOVE THROUGH AN IMPERFECT
WORLD.
WE END ON THE
BEACH, A LOVELY CIRCULAR
SATIRIC MOVEMENT.
THE SATIRIC COMPROMISE THAT
MILO AND DORA WILL MAKE
BETWEEN THEIR FALLEN SELVES,
IT IS NOT A BAD ONE.
THEY WILL RENEW A MARRIAGE
BASED ON A MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE
OF EACH OTHER'S STRENGTHS AND
WEAKNESSES, ON A RECOGNITION
OF PAST INFIDELITIES, AND ON A
RECIPROCATED PHYSICAL DESIRE.
IT'S NOT A BAD FOUNDATION FOR
MARRIAGE.
IT ISN'T THE GARDEN OF EDEN,
BUT IT'S NOT BAD.
IT'S COMPROMISE, IT'S A
SATIRIC COMPROMISE.
COMPROMISE... MACBETH WOULD
HAVE BEEN A SATIRE, IN THE
LAST SCENE OF MACBETH, IF
McDUFF HAD SAID TO MACBETH,
"LIVE."
AND MACBETH HAD SAYD, "OKAY."
YOU KNOW, LIFE IN A CAGE IS
BETTER THAN DEATH, OKAY.
THEN IT BECOMES A SATIRE...
COMPROMISE.
THIS IS A PERFECT SATIRE, AND
FRANKLY, I LOVE THE
SENTIMENTALITY OF THAT LAST
SCENE.
I REVELLED IN IT, I MAKE NO
APOLOGIES.
ON THE BEACH, MILO DISTRAUGHT,
CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE, HE'S
BOUGHT A POOR QUALITY REVOLVER
BECAUSE IT WAS CHEAP.
CALLED BY A NIECE, THE
MAMELOUKA IS ON THE BEACH.
THE GRIEVING MILO GOES OUT TO
SEE THE DISTANT FIGURE OF A
WOMAN SITTING ALONE BY THE
SEA.
AS HE APPROACHES HER, TWICE HE
MOUTHS TO HIMSELF HIS WORDS AT
THEIR FIRST MEETING.
YOU REINVENT THE SEA,
MADEMOISELLE, I REPRODUCE IT
EXACTLY.
"DORA TURNED TOWARD HIM, HER
EYES MISTED OVER WITH TEARS.
THEY WERE NOW ONLY A FEW PACES
APART.
MAGGIE, THE NIECE SAW MILO'S
FACE LIGHT UP BENEATH HIS
THREE-DAY BEARD.
TACTFULLY SHE TURNED AND
WALKED BACK TOWARDS THE
VILLAS."
YES, I LOVED IT.
THIS HAS BEEN NO AVANT-GARDE
NARRATIVE.
THIS IS NOT A POSTMODERN WORK.
THIS IS NOT A
DECONSTRUCTIONIST WORK WHERE
THE AUTHOR TRIES TO BRING OUT
THE BOURGEOIS MORALITY THAT
HAS BEEN AT THE BASIS OF OUR
LITERATURE FOR NEARLY 300
YEARS.
THIS IS PURE PROPAGANDA
BOURGEOIS PROPAGANDA FOR
MARRIAGE.
THIS IS AS TRADITIONAL A NOVEL
AS BRONTE'S, WUTHERING
HEIGHTS, OR JANE AUSTEN.
THIS NOVEL IS CLASSIC
PROPAGANDA FOR MARRIAGE AS THE
MOST ADMIRABLE AND DESIRABLE
OF HUMAN STATES.
WHY DID I FIND THIS
TRADITIONAL SATIRE SO
ATTRACTIVE?
BECAUSE I DID.
I REVELLED IN IT.
FIRST, BECAUSE THE STRUCTURE
IS SO PERFECT AS A SATIRE.
YOU BEGIN WHERE YOU END.
A LITTLE IS LEARNED AND A
COMPROMISE IS MADE.
ONE REASON I THINK I WAS SO
ATTRACTED TO THE STORY, IS
THAT IT IS ABOUT, OR LARGELY
ABOUT PASSION, PHYSICAL
DESIRE, AND THAT'S NOT AS
COMMON IN OUR DAY AS IT USED
TO BE.
SO MANY SERIOUS WRITERS NOW
FORCE US TO CONSIDER THE
CEREBRAL, AND WHEN WE DO, WE
ARE OFTEN PROFOUNDLY
INTERESTED, BUT WE ARE NOT, I
THINK, MOVED.
I DON'T KNOW WHY THERE HAS
BEEN A MOVE AWAY FROM PASSION
AS A SUBJECT.
I READ SOMEWHERE RECENTLY THAT
IT'S BECAUSE FREUD HAS MADE US
SELF CONSCIOUS ABOUT OUR
EMOTIONS.
BUT PASSION IN A NOVEL DOES
ENGAGE US.
THE OLD MASTERS KNEW THAT.
THAT'S WHY WE HAVE THERESE
RAQUIN, EMMA BOVARY, ANNA
KARENINA AND ROBERT SOLE KNEW
THAT, WHEN HE CREATED DORA,
THE MAMELOUKA.
THERE IS PASSION AND IT IS
ENGAGING, BUT THERE IS ANOTHER
INTENSELY PERSONAL REASON WHY
I WAS SO DRAWN TO THIS STORY
OF A COMMUNITY WHO ARE ALWAYS
STRANGERS IN THE LAND OF
EGYPT, WHO ALWAYS FEEL IN THE
WORDS OF THE NOVEL, THAT THEY,
"BELONG NOWHERE" PAGE 114.
SOLE HAS OFTEN WRITTEN OF HIS
LOVE FOR EGYPT, THE LAND OF
HIS BIRTH, OF HIS LOVE OF
FRANCE, THE LAND OF HIS
CHOICE.
BUT LIKE ALL THE SHAWAM, THE
GREEK CATHOLICS, ARAB
CHRISTIANS, THE SYRIANS OF
EGYPT, HE IS NOT WHOLLY AT
HOME IN EITHER EGYPT OR IN
FRANCE.
RATHER, AS HE PUT IT TO ME, MA
PATRIE, C'EST LA LANGUE
FRANCAIS.
MY COUNTRY IS
THE FRENCH LANGUAGE.
THAT HIT ME
LIKE A THUNDERBOLT, AND I
THOUGHT LONG AND HARD ABOUT
THAT.
AND I THOUGHT ABOUT MY OWN
LIFE.
I ONLY HAVE ONE WAY TO REACT
TO LITERATURE, AND THAT IS
PERSONALLY.
I MUST FIND RESONANCES IN MY
OWN EXPERIENCE.
I THOUGHT ABOUT MY OWN LIFE.
I WAS BORN IN WALES, I WAS A
CHILD IN WALES.
BUT I GREW UP IN LONDON.
I LIVED IN LONDON UNTIL I CAME
TO MONTREAL IN 1964.
NOW CANADA HAS BEEN VERY GOOD
TO ME AND I DEFINE MYSELF AS A
CANADIAN.
BUT PEARL AND I LOVE TO GO
BACK TO LONDON.
WE GO BACK AT LEAST ONCE A
YEAR.
BUT WHAT IS IT ABOUT LONDON
THAT SO ATTRACTS US?
THE FRIENDS AND THE DRINKING
PLACES OF MY YOUTH ARE LONG
GONE.
IT CAN'T BE THE OVERPRICED
HOTELS OR THE INCOMPETENT
RESTAURANTS.
OR THE BRITISH DESIRE WHEN
THEY SERVE YOU, TO PROVE THAT
THEY DON'T REALLY LIKE DOING
IT.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues IT'S BENEATH THEM.
I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT WE DO
WHEN WE MAKE OUR ANNUAL
PILGRIMAGE TO LONDON.
WE SPEND HOURS IN THE
BOOKSTORES AND THE GALLERIES,
WE GO TO THE THEATRE AT LEAST
ONCE A DAY.
I THOUGHT ABOUT THE MARVELLOUS
MOUNT PEARL AND I JUST SPENT
IN SOUTH AMERICA.
IT HAD ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM TO
DANCE THE TANGO WITH MY WIFE
IN BUENOS AIRES.
ALL MY LIFE I HAVE LOVED THE
MUSIC, THE TANGO MUSIC OF
CARLOS GARDEL, KILLED IN AN
AIR CRASH IN 1935, AND STILL
AN ICON IN SOUTH AMERICA AND
IN MY MIND.
I WANTED TO GO TO BUENOS AIRES
WITH PEARL, I WANTED TO GO
WHERE GARDEL HAD SUNG, AND
[Speaking Spanish], SO WE
WENT, AND WE FOUND A LITTLE
CLUB ONE AFTERNOON, WHERE THE
[Inaudible] OR PEOPLE OF
BUENOS AIRES GO TO PRACTISE
THE TANGO AND WE PRACTISED.
AND IN THE EVENING WE WENT TO
TORTONI, LITTLE PLACE, HOLDS
30, 40 PEOPLE.
AND WE SAT BY THE STAGE, AND I
DRESSED LIKE GARDEL, THE BLACK
SHIRT, THE BLACK PANTS, AND
WHEN THEY DID THE TANGO SHOW,
I WAS SO ENTHUSIASTIC, I HAD A
BOTTLE OF WINE, ANOTHER
BOTTLE, ANOTHER BOTTLE, AND
MANY COGNACS.
I WAS SO ENTHUSIASTIC DURING
THE SHOW, THAT AT THE END OF
THE SHOW, THE LEAD FEMALE
DANCER PULLED ME UP ON STAGE
TO DANCE WITH HER.
AND I WAS MAGNIFICENT.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues AND ON THE WAY HOME, BACK TO
OUR HOTEL, ALONG CORRIENTES,
AND FLORIDA, PEARL AND I
DANCED THE TANGO IN THE
STREETS, AND TAXI DRIVERS
STOPPED AND APPLAUDED.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues AND THEN WE FLEW UP TO RIO DE
JANEIRO FOR THE CARNIVAL.
I'D ALWAYS DREAMED OF DANCING
IN THE CARNIVAL.
AND WE DANCED, OUR FIRST
PARTICIPATION IN THE
CELEBRATION WAS IN THE DRAG
QUEEN PARADE.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues AND MY OBJECTIVE IN THAT
PARADE WAS TO LOOK FRIENDLY
BUT NOT INVITING.

[Audience Laughter]

Robert continues NOW AFTER A MONTH, WENT TO
MONTEVIDEO, TO SAU PAULO,
AFTER A MONTH OF AN INCREDIBLE
HOLIDAY, ALL MY DREAMS
REALISED, I LONGED TO COME
BACK TO MONTREAL.
WHY?
IT'S NOT THE ABOMINABLE
CLIMATE.
WHY?
IT'S BECAUSE I HAD NOT TAKEN
WITH ME ENOUGH BOOKS.
TRUE.
TRUE.
AND ALL THROUGH THAT HOLIDAY,
I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK.
I MADE NOTES, I'D DONE MY
RESEARCH.
I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, FOCUSSED
ON IT, CONCENTRATED ON IT, AND
ON WHAT SOLE HAD WRITTEN TO
ME.
AND I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS
COMMUNITY, ANCHORED ONLY IN
THEIR LANGUAGE IN EGYPT, NOT
IN THE PLACE.
AND I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT SOLE
HAD SAID, MA PATRIE, C'EST LA
LANGUE FRANCAISE.
AND I REALISED WHY I HAD BEEN
SO ATTRACTED TO THIS NOVEL,
THIS OLD FASHIONED, CIRCULAR
SATIRIC NOVEL, THIS
GLORIFICATION OF BOURGEOIS
MORALITY.
IT'S ABOUT A PEOPLE FOR WHOM
LANGUAGE IS NATIONALITY, AND I
REALISED WHY I IDENTIFIED WITH
THE NOVEL AND WITH SOLE SO
STRONGLY, BECAUSE I HAVE
ALWAYS PUT TO MYSELF J.M.
COUTIR'S GREAT QUESTION, WHERE
IS HOME, AND HOW DO I GET
THERE?
AND I REALISED THAT HOME, FOR
ME, IS NOTONDON, NOT EVEN
MONTREAL, NOT SOUTH AMERICA.
I REALISED WHAT I HAD WONDERED
ABOUT FOR YEARS.
I REALISED WHERE MY HOME
REALLY WAS.
CERTAINLY IT IS AT THE SIDE OF
MY WIFE, BUT WHERE?
AND SOLE HAS GIVEN ME THE
ANSWER.
MY HOME IS THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE, THAT'S MY HOME.
AND FOR THAT NEW UNDERSTANDING
OF MYSELF, AND FOR ALL THE
OTHER PLEASURES OF THIS NOVEL,
FOR ITS FAMILY SAGA, FOR ITS
INSTRUCTION IN PHOTOGRAPHY,
FOR THE PAINLESS LESSON AND
REVISION OF HISTORY AND FOR
THE CLASSIC SATIRIC STORY OF
LOVE AND PASSION, I AM VERY
GRATEFUL TO ROBERT SOLE, AND I
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Applause]

Now music plays as pictures flash by of female hands holding a book.
A close-up reveals the title of the book: "Robert Adams. A love of reading; Reviews of Contemporary Fiction."

A caption reads "In bookstores now."

Robert's voice says SO MANY
SERIOUS WRITERS NOW FORCE US
TO CONSIDER THE CEREBRAL, AND
WHEN WE DO, WE ARE OFTEN
PROFOUNDLY INTERESTED, BUT WE
ARE NOT, I THINK, MOVED.
I ONLY HAVE ONE WAY TO REACT
TO LITERATURE, AND THAT IS
PERSONALLY.
I MUST FIND RESONANCES IN MY
OWN EXPERIENCE.

Classical music plays as the end credits roll.

Comments and queries, email: bigideas@tvo.org

Telephone: (416) 484-2746.

Big Ideas, TVONTARIO, Box 200, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. M4T 2T1.

Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Associate Producer, Mike Miner.

Sound, Maurice Dalzot.

Executive Producer, Doug Grant.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2001, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Robert Adams on Robert Sole's book the Photographer's Wife.