Egypt: The Death of Philae
by Pierre Loti, Translated by W. P. Baines
Louis Marie-Julien Viaud (1850-1923) adopted the pseudonym, Pierre Loti, while in Tahiti. He served in the French military, ultimately becoming a naval officer. His service led him to travels around the world, and his keen eye for observations was quickly recognized. He was encouraged by fellow officers to publicly share his travel accounts. He wrote detailed views of cities like Jerusalem, Istanbul and Algiers, and overall examinations of countries such as Senegal, Vietnam, Iceland, Japan, India and Egypt. His writings tied a deep appreciation for recounting vibrant details of life in regions around the world to stories of deep emotion, often blurring the line between fact and fiction.
The Death of Philae is a travelogue of Loti’s visit to Egypt, in which he is quite aware of the imbalance of power in the region. He offers a sympathetic view of Egyptians and Islam, and notes the imposition of the British Empire on the region. The title comes from a description of the island of Philae, which was submerged after the development of the Aswan Dam by England across the Nile River.