Progress on ‘Scenes from a Life’


This week has been a good writing week! Specifically, I have now got Scenes from a Life to about the 2/3 point… barring editing and such like which will mean going over those chapters several times in ruthless fashion. But in unpolished form at least, chapters 1 to 5 are complete, 7 is well on the way, 8 is fragmentary, and 9 has the basic shape laid out. 6 does not exist at all, though I have a reasonable sense what will be in it!

The story is set something like twenty years after In a Milk and Honeyed Land and, although it probably will not seem like it at first sight, aims to tie up some loose ends left unresolved in that novel. It starts in Egypt, well down the Nile near the town we now call Luxor – Waset at the time the story is set. The main character, Makty-rasut, is a scribe who works to create tombs – eternal houses – for the nobility of the region. We follow his story through a series of scenes both in the present time and as flashbacks to earlier formative events.

I find the scribal culture that Makty inhabits a fascinating one. He and others like him interacted with the elite of their day. Some of them moved up into those rarified ranks, while others remained at a level very roughly corresponding to what we would now call a professional middle class. A great deal of what we know of ancient Egypt and the surrounding lands was presented through their eyes, and therefore seen according to the presuppositions and ambitions of their class. Arguably, their culture also shaped the making of the religious literature that has come down to us in the Bible, since the evidence of archaeology and text is that Egyptian scribes found employment in the various Levantine states – including Israel – which emerged after the Egyptian empire in those regions collapsed.

I work in a very similar environment in today’s London, and anyone who has worked in IT will recognise many familiar features in the book. The way I write it, “agile methodologies” are not a modern creation at all, but a common and logical solution to the problem of directing the creative effort of a small team of talented but often opinionated workers. I hasten to add that although the attitudes and lifestyle I write about can frequently be seen around me, the individual people in the book are not modelled on individuals I know. Anyone who reads the book hoping to recognise one or other of my fellow workers will probably be disappointed! But maybe they will find some aspects of the professional life familiar.

Although the book starts in Egypt, it does eventually link up with the town of Kephrath. How and why it does is a matter for another day.

I’m hoping that Scenes from a Life will make it into print during 2013, and I will continue talking about its progress from time to time. Meanwhile, check out In a Milk and Honeyed Land for the background situation out in the Egyptian province of Canaan –


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