By Peter Stothard

While Peter Stothard, editor of the days Literary complement, unearths himself stranded in Alexandria within the wintry weather of 2010 after his flight to South Africa has been cancelled, he units out to discover a kingdom near to revolution. Guided through local Egyptians, Stothard strains his personal life-long curiosity within the heritage of Cleopatra, and his repeated failure to put in writing the publication approximately her that he had continually sought after to.

In Alexandria, half memoir and half shuttle literature, Stothard used to be the points of interest and sounds of the traditional urban to reconnect with the formative stories of his adolescence schooling, and his literary occupation. depression and infrequently funny, Alexandria bargains a first-hand glimpse into the fracturing police nation of Hosni Mubarak, ahead of the rebellion in Tahir sq. replaced every little thing.

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The directions were simple: right on Al Horreya, left on Nebi Danial, past the bookshops and piles of trousers where the two streets meet, the Piccadilly Circus of Alexandria, as the guidebook says; past the lives of Fidel Castro and Richard Burton, catalogues from JCPenney and the Modern Dining Centre, past dozens of purple overalls, an advertisement for a discussion about Jean-Paul Sartre in 2002, a brown-and-white radio mast in Eiffel pattern and a tightly shuttered home for French missionaries.

Caieta may seem an odd character to appear at the beginning of a book about Cleopatra. She is almost unknown. Most students have read the Aeneid without registering her at all. Her name begins with C and ends in A but that is not the reason she will play her part in this story. She will be there because she was the first Latin name I knew when it began. This final version of my Cleopatra, whatever it becomes, will be most of all a book of chances. Professor Rame’s adventure, my own first Cleopatra, owed a little to Bert Stothard’s Aeneid, but more as an opening to an ancient world than a guide to what was in it, more as an object than a text.

This is a tax exemption for the far future from the Egyptian head of a great Greek family who has entered Rome’s civil wars, world wars then, with every intention of being on the winner’s side. Her man, Canidius, commands the greatest army of the time. She herself commands the most massive personal treasury. The odds are that her lover, Mark Antony, will soon defeat his rival Octavian for the leadership of the Roman world, the legacy of her earlier lover, the assassinated Julius Caesar. She may even choose to exert that leadership not from Rome but from her own palace here – where tonight the cars honk ceaselessly in the square, the birds and beggars scratch on the beach, and the Nile waters still mingle, more sluggishly now, with the Mediterranean sea.

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