Gayer-Anderson: The Life and Afterlife of the Irish Pasha
Based on the personal journals of Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson (18811945), Egyptologist, poet, surgeon, soldier, psychic, and noted collector, this candid and charming historical biography tells of Gayer-Andersons strange and eclectic life in the final days of the British empire.
As a child, he crossed an unforgiving America with his entrepreneurial and eccentric Irish parents. As a man, he immersed himself in the Arab way of life as colonials seldom did, he saw ghosts and witches, sailed the Nile, wrestled Turks and crocodiles, fought at Gallipoli, smoked opium, performed surgery in the desert, gathered and cared for artefacts and boys in his Cairene home, survived an assassination attempt and, in the name of science and Henry Wellcome, in flowery glades he boiled the flesh from the skulls of Nuba warriors. His personal journals are filled with frank accounts of his exploits and of the illustrious and colorful people who wandered by: Lawrence of Arabia, Gordon, Kitchener, Conan-Doyle, Eric Gill, and Stephen Spender, among others.
Drugs, race, class, family, sex, and selfhood are vividly mixed in this tale of two wars, colonial life, medicine, anthropology, and psychic phenomena. The stiff-upper-lipped ritual of a very British upbringing vied with his Romantic and consuming love of beauty, vividly embodied in the Gayer-Anderson Museum in Cairo, which to this day houses his vast collection of carpets, furniture, glassware, and other curios.
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