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The Third Translation: A Novelby Matt Bondurant
Synopses & Reviews
A literary page-turner that plunges the reader headlong into a modern quest to solve one of the last remaining riddles of ancient Egypt. An ancient mystery, a hidden language, and the secrets of a bizarre Egyptian sect collide in modern-day London in this ingenious novel of seduction, conspiracy, and betrayal.
Walter Rothschild is an American Egyptologist living in London and charged by the British Museum with the task of unlocking the ancient riddle of the Stela of Paser, one of the last remaining real-life hieroglyphic mysteries in existence today. The secrets of the stela — a centuries-old funerary stone — have evaded scholars for thousands of years due to the stela's cryptic reference to a third translation:
As for this writing, it is to be read three times. Its like has not been seen before, or heard since the time of the god.
Drawn into its mystery, Rothschild becomes the dupe of a seduction, robbery, and conspiracy engineered by a cult devoted to ancient Egyptian mysticism. With no one to trust and nothing as it appears, he must fight an elusive enemy to save his livelihood — and his very life.
As enlightening as it is entertaining, The Third Translation is a magnificent blend of fact and fiction. Bondurant masterfully weaves a wealth of fascinating, arcane information into a thrilling debut novel. Engagingly plotted, extensively researched, and utterly original, this well-crafted literary suspense novel takes you from the fast-paced streets of modern London into a lost world of sacred antiquities and ancient mysteries.
"Walter Rothschild, a middle-aged Egyptologist at the British Museum, has abandoned his wife and child to spend his time obsessively poring over the dusty inscriptions of a dead civilization. He is forced to reconnect with life when he is seduced by a mysterious woman who then steals an ancient papyrus containing the key to the enigmatic hieroglyphics of the Stela of Paser. The conspiracy trail leads Walter to a modern-day cult of the Egyptian sun god, Aten, protected by a menacing team of pro wrestlers. In Bondurant's ambitious debut, a sprawling picaresque is infused with mythic resonance by linking it to ancient Egyptian literature and mythology and to concepts in avant-garde physics, including black holes, general relativity and string theory. The author has an inventive imagination and an ardent feel for place; much of the book is a prose poem to London's squalid demimonde. Though some may feel that Bondurant's erudition and philosophical engagement ('the only way...to make sense of the magnitude of the time and the space and the span of humanity on earth is to grasp onto the one thing that gives you a clear look') slow the pace of his mystery, the success of previous literary novels of suspense bodes very well for this one. Agent, Alex Glass. (Apr. 6) Forecast: A big push by Hyperion should give this a shot at major sales, though it's not the only mysteries-of-the-ancient-world thriller in the running (in this issue, see also The Geographer's Library, p. 222)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Archaeology outshines the action." Kirkus Reviews
"[Bondurant's] extensive research has paid off in a literary page-turner whose characters are as compelling and complex as the Stela itself." Booklist
"[A]n impressive first novel about life and death and how we interpret each. It's not the next great thriller, but if you roll with it, you may just get more than what you'd expected." The Washington Post
"A luminous debut...an ingeniously literate and incandescent historical thriller that mixes linguistic cryptology and translation with gripping success." Washington Examiner
"The Third Translation has the complex twists of an ancient tomb, but Matt Bondurant knows the path through and leads us to a deep chamber of treasure. This novel provides a thrilling reading experience and it marks the beginning of a brilliant new literary career. Bondurant is the real thing." Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"How rare to encounter a young writer whose first steps press so deep and leave...lasting footprints on the literary landscape. In the past twenty years I can recall exactly a handful whose debut novels so dazzled me with their arcane intelligence and cosmic conspiracies, their dark, artful blendings of sophistication and vulgarity." Bob Shacochis, National Book Award winner for Easy in the Islands
An ancient mystery, a hidden language, and the secrets of a bizarre Egyptian sect collide in modern-day London in this ingenious novel of seduction, conspiracy, and betrayal.
A literary page-turner about one man's quest for an ancient mystery through the perilous streets of modern London Walter Rothschild has nothing but his work. Estranged from his wife and adult daughter, he spends his days and nights lost in translation — constantly working and reworking the riddles inscribed on ancient funereal stones. A gifted American Egyptologist, he was hired by the British Museum in London to try to crack the code of one of the greatest remaining hieroglyphic mysteries — the Stela of Paser. Stuck, with no new inspiration, he meets a seductive young woman who seems interested in him and his work. When Walter invites her back to the museum to get a closer look at his work, she secretly steals an antiquity and disappears. Thus begins Walter's frantic search to repair the damage he's caused. Threatened by villains real and imagined, Walter races against time to win back the antiquity and his reputation, without losing his life in the process. Utterly original and told in electric prose, this is a novel that beautifully weaves together exceptional insight into the inner yearnings of men with a fast-paced plot about ancient mystery and modern conspiracy. Ingenious, witty, and compelling, it is a novel to be savored and urged on all of your friends.
About the Author
Matt Bondurant began working on this novel while living and working in London, and finished it while employed at the British Museum, where he first saw the actual Stela of Paser and learned of its elusive and mysterious third translation. A professor at George Mason University and two-time Bread Loaf scholarship winner, his short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, the New England Review, and numerous other publications. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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