Picnic at Sakkara (first part of the "Egypt Trilogy")


This is a delicious comedy, one of those rare, completely entertaining romps with a master of humour. It might have been called a comic Passage to Egypt.

The story concerns Edgar Perry, a lecturer at Cairo University in the days of King Farouk. This mild man of good will suddenly finds himself the private tutor of an illustrious and powerful Pasha, who at first encourages his illusions about Egypt, where not all mirages occur in the desert. He becomes the astonished fomenter of student riots—in other words, a dangerous character. Those to whom he has taught the beauties of George Eliot become addicts of sinister political violence. One of them, Muawiya Khaslat, an attractive rogue, wavers between his devotion to Perry and his membership in the Moslem Brotherhood.

Perry's innocent benevolence, his desire to alleviate the misery of the students, is his Achilles' heel. He discovers an Egypt in which nothing is what it seems, where infidelities may be illusory and loyalties divided, where it may be a mistake to put one's trust in kindness and princesses. It is a wonder that Perry comes out alive, though in the end it is perhaps his innocence that protects him.

P. H. Newby Book Cover P. H. Newby Book CoverP. H. Newby Book Cover

Brilliantly done... Touching, wise, illuminating
-- J.B. Priestly

A very good comedy
-- V.S. Pritchett

A work of sheer comedy which is a delight to read
-- David Daiches

An adroit comedy which I put down with a sense of having been touched as well as amused
-- Peter De Vries

The prevailing tone, beautifully maintained, is that of light comedy, with occasional touches of farce. Mr. Newby's brilliant comic gifts are used fully and directly
-- The Times Literary Supplement