Drawn by a fascination with Egypt's rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. Not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring began, and the country was plunged into chaos. The Buried is an excavation of life in one of the world's oldest civilizations at a time of convulsive change.
[Hessler's] absorbing account of the fallout from the Egyptian revolutions of 2011. It is an eclectic, beautifully written narrative that weaves a portrait of contemporary life in Egypt together with the complex strands of its pharaonic past, finding parallels between seemingly disparate ancient and modern worlds ... captures the post-revolution euphoria and then its aftermath ... Although at first it may seem unclear why Hessler tacks between the instability of contemporary Egypt and its ancient glories, he makes thoughtful connections between the authoritarian grandeur of the past and the chaos of today ... Especially moving are Hessler’s tales of the people he befriended during his five years in Egypt. Their experiences offer deeper insights into both the nature of power in Egyptian society and the resilience of individuals making do with a life of electricity blackouts, economic insecurity and the arbitrary violence of the state ... an ambitious book, and it delivers on all fronts. It’s equal parts travelogue, history and memoir from a writer with a gift for conveying the profound humanity of his subjects ... Hessler highlights with great poignancy the untapped human potential and the cleverness with which Egyptians navigate everyday life in the face of an often brutal authoritarian regime.
... [a] closely observed, touching and at times amusing chronicle...Drawing both from daily life and from interviews with highly placed political figures, the book is an extraordinary work of reportage, on a par with Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near (2005), which was itself built from tales of everyday Iraqis during the early days of the American occupation. Part of the power of these works surely comes from the simple but important fact that both reporters speak Arabic ... Sensitive and perceptive, Mr. Hessler is a superb literary archaeologist, one who handles what he sees with a bit of wonder that he gets to watch the history of this grand city unfold, one day at a time.
The book’s three-part outline ('The President,' 'The Coup,' 'The President') is deceptively simple ... Not everything from his New Yorker pieces makes it into the book, but much seems to ... In reading The Buried, which I admit is the kind of book I might have criticized in the past, I find myself changing my mind. What Hessler offers is something that no Egyptian could ever really write, and in that way, he adds alternate dimensions to a story, or the stories, of this place we call home, with all the good intentions of simply his own singular viewpoint and experience.