Stille takes an engrossing look at the cultural consequences of technological change and globalization as the by-products of globalization threaten to destroy--in one or two generations--monuments, works of art, and a way of life.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, "part lion, part pharaoh, part god," is slowly dying. Large chunks of limestone crack off each day, the soft middle portion of its body is vulnerable and, eventually, the head will become unstable. Though Egyptologists try to restore and preserve the great monument, much of their work does more harm than good. In the disturbing words of one archeologist: "You study it, you kill it." That comment best captures the paradox at the heart of Stille's splendid book: scholars work feverishly to study and preserve precious monuments, rare species and ancient manuscripts, relying on ever more advanced forms of technology in their efforts, while the accelerating rate of technological change industrialization, population growth and pollution threatens to destroy these treasures. Hence, a cycle of preservation and destruction perpetuates itself. Stille (Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic), a lovely storyteller, brings to life the passionate and forceful personalities of preservationists, dedicated scholars, bald opportunists, looters and other key players in the world of conservation and preservation. He examines the dying traditions of canoe making and oral poetry on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea; the tombaroli (tomb robbers) of Sicily who have helped to make illicit antiquities the third most valued item in the world's black markets; devastating levels of pollution in the beloved and holy Ganges river; and one man's ultimately scandalous attempt to modernize the 550-year-old Vatican library. A frequent contributor to the New Yorker (where parts of this book were previously published), Stille consistently offers a powerful narrative, rich with anecdote, detailed description and lively dialogue. This is a must read for anyone interested in the preservation of our world's decaying treasures. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 01, 2003
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