Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Brief History of Beer; Stone that Speaks

Some fun passages from Eduardo Galeano, in the book Mirrors.

A Brief History of Beer

  One of the earliest proverbs, written in the language of the Sumerians, exonerates drink in case of accident:

                        Beer is good.
                        What’s bad is the road,

  As the oldest of all books tells it, King Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu was a savage brute until he discovered beer and bread.
  Beer traveled to Egypt from the land we now call Iraq.  Because it gave the face new eyes, the Egyptians believed it was a gift from their god Osiris.  And since barley beer was the twin sister of bread, they called it “liquid bread.:
   In the Andes, it is the oldest of offerings: from the beginning, the earth has asked for a few drops of chicha, corn beer, to cheer up its days.

Speaking of the Children of the Nile…

                                                            Stone that Speaks

  When Napoleon invaded Egypt, one of his soldiers found on the banks of the Nile a great black stone entirely engraved with symbols.
  They called it Rosetta.
  Jean  Francois Champollion, a student of dead languages, spent his youth going round and round that stone.
  Rosetta spoke three languages.  Two had been deciphered.  Not the Egyptian hieroglyphs.
  The writing of the creators of the pyramids remained an enigma.  A scripture much commented upon: Herodotus, Strabo, Diodorus, and Horapolla all pretended to translate it, making it up as they went along, as did the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, who published four tomes of nonsense.  All of them believed hieroglyphs were a system of symbolic images, and the meanings varied according to the fantasy of each translator.
  Mute symbols or deaf men?  For years and years, Champollion peppered the Rosetta Stone with questions, and received only obstinate silent in its response.  The poor fellow was wasting away from hunger and discouragement when one day he thought of a possibility that occurred to no one before: suppose the hieroglyphs were something like the letters of an alphabet?

  That day the tombs opened and the dead kingdom spoke.

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