A Mantis Carol by Laurens van der Post

By Laurens van der Post

Publish yr note: First released in 1976

Presented jointly now for the 1st time, Laurens van der Post's gathered writings will display as by no means ahead of the fullness of his perceptive, clever and remarkably constant imaginative and prescient. In them all his thought has been that of an adventurous pioneer exploring not only the outward elements of a turbulent and bothered global yet, at a deeper point, the styles and paradoxes of human existence, the myths and desires of the human brain, the values and cultures of alternative peoples, the elusive springs of our personal humans.

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The introversions are expressed in the turn to the past and the retreat into nostalgia, ‘self-analysis’, and introspection, whereas, by way of contrast, expressions of extraversion are located in new aspirations and new concepts of utopianism that motivate projects to push back the The ‘Alexandria Project’ in the Western Imagination 35 boundaries of the known world (Bazin 1967:5). ‘Utopianism’, as many authors argue, is subsequently essentialised as a key part of Museum and Alexandria’s genealogy (Polignac 2000a:34).

More specifically this retrievalism lays claim to a vision of the Alexandria Mouseion/Library in which ‘untouched by the ravages of time, it housed everything one would ever care to know or recall, a perfect museum that one might roam with abandon, a true temple of the Muses’ (Findlen 2000:178). The institution’s demise similarly serves as a dramatic mirror to the realities of cultural loss and underlines the point that it is the fear of loss of knowledge and of memory that not only underpins and motivates the Aristotelian project and Alexandrina paradigm (Findlen 2000:178) but by extension also invests itself in the wider museological/heritage imagination.

He further illustrates how Alexandria’s ‘glory’ is bound up in a powerful combination of the ‘elaboration’ of ‘myth’, ‘royal propaganda’, ‘local traditions’, and what are dubbed the ‘twisted accounts’ (Polignac 2000b:212). ’ attributed to pseudo-Callistenes that dramatise and idealise further Alexander the Great’s myth and in so doing the city’s own status (Polignac 2000b:212). These accounts, which are articulated from an almost exclusively pro-‘Greek-Macedonian’ perspective, are also effective in positioning both city and archive as an extension of the ‘Greek’ landscape and highlight further Alexandria’s characterisation as the ‘New Athens’ and, from the Roman period onward, as Alexandria ad Aegyptum – Alexandria by, not in, Egypt (cf Brown & Taieb 1996:7).

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