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Monday, November 1, 2010

Why obelisks?

Why on earth do we have obelisks in our thriller? We blame Dan Brown for this. When we finally bought a copy of The Da Vinci Code in the Da Vinci airport in Rome, we took turns reading it. As we wrote in our website, Obelisk Seven:
When we finished it, we talked about how Brown wove interesting facts – the where, the who, the what - into his thriller, and suddenly we both had the same thought: why not use some of our wonderful memories of the cities we had just visited in a thriller of our own?
And so Obelisk Seven was conceived. Two and half years after the conception of that idea, after a lot of research and hard work and tons of sheer fun, our novel was finally born.
Then we had further discussions about what kind of a novel we would write, and how we could do what Dan Brown had done:
We liked the way he slipped little bits of information into the novel, and loved thinking back on the places we had seen which he included in it.
Then it struck us: we had noticed something very interesting in London, Paris and especially in Rome. It seemed that everywhere you walked in Rome you came across huge granite blocks of stone erected in ancient Egypt many
centuries ago. Later we learned that the obelisk pope, Sixtus V, had deliberately restored many of the obelisks in Rome in places where they could be beacons to the many pilgrims coming to the city. As in: Go down this street, turn left at such-and-such an obelisk, then right at the next one, until you come to ...
Could we use these ancient obelisks in a thriller?
So we dived into the history of the obelisks, and found out some fascinating things about who made them, who moved them, and where they now were. Of the 33 remaining obelisks (hundreds were carved out of rock in Egypt since the first one some 4,600 years ago), most are still in Rome.

And there might still be more obelisks buried in that city!

We discovered that the Egyptian name for obelisk is tekhen, which means mystery, and that it was a symbol of life and light. Used as a type of triumphal column, to record the glories of a pharaoh, another thing struck us forcibly about the obelisks when we visited them in London, Paris, Rome and in Egypt: the ones taken from their homeland seemed lonely to us.

Egyptian obelisks were never designed to stand on their own, but were harmoniously integrated into the monuments they graced, and often erected in pairs. These solitary obelisks in the heart of the busiest cities of Europe and America had been wrenched out of their rightful environments, and banished to lonely existences.

We read a description of the obelisk in the heart of London, England, which really caught our fancy. The writer called it a 'solitary heathen stranger' in the city of London. A pretty accurate description, we think.

'Solitary'. Can't argue with that; just take a long, hard look at it on the Thames Embankment. It was designed to be twinned in front of an ancient Egyptian temple, yet there it stands, all alone.

'Heathen'. It belongs to the dim twilight of the human race, as one writer put it. It predates most religions, never mind just Christianity.

'Stranger'. You cannot disagree with that description. Look at it carefully. It does not fit into that wet, grey country. It belongs in a desert, where the sun is worshipped for all the seasons it brings and life it gives.

The gap between the London of today and the temple at Heliopolis which it came from is not just a geographic or time gap - it is a gap between civilizations so far apart that we struggle to bridge the differences in our own minds.

No wonder they intrigue so many people. They are just that - mysterious.

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