Book: The Teacher of Cheops-Albert Salvadó
Around the World: Andorra
how obtained: kindle version
Andorra is a tiny little principality of around 79000 people that lies on the border of France and Spain. For many years, the leaders of the country were jointly the bishop of Spain and the president of France! They still are the figurehead leaders, but there is now a parliament.
This book is the only one of Salvado’s books to be translated from Catalan to English. He has written historical fiction, crime/suspense, children’s books and essays. The teacher of Cheops is set in Egypt in the time of Pharaoh Snefru. Sedum is born a slave, but through chance, quick thinking and the self serving manipulation of a high priest is able to rise to the station of a free man and palace accountant. Its main theme is the interplay between destiny and creating your own destiny- how much does the world and others affect us, and how much can we change it.
I enjoyed most of this book- with its little diversions into philosophy, aspects of suspense,and just being a very different setting to the other books I have been reading lately. The main things I didn’t like were just a few uncomfortable scenes/passages. The main one was right near the start- Sedum’s mother was a disfigured 14 year old, who had been born free but was now a slave. Another slave escapes and seeks refuge in the closed of area of the tent she is in. He holds her still, with a hand over her mouth to stop her from giving him away. And then they have sex. It is written that she becomes aroused by him holding her and wants it to happen, but at no point is anything verbalised, she isn’t asked, he has just overpowered her, they never even look at each others faces, and as mentioned, she is only 14. Going from scared to wanting sex with this stranger within a few seconds, in a 14 year old who has never had sex or any kind of romantic touch before, doesn’t ring true to me. I feel like her internal monologue was really just a way to gloss over what was happening- ‘see its not rape- she wanted it’.
But if you get past that, the rest is pretty ok. There are a few scenes with violence/torture- but I found the short, to the point way of writing about it made it less confronting than most violent movies (it pretty much goes ‘she didn’t talk. so they cut off her lips. and then she did’).