|Edgar Allan Poe|
The unnamed narrator is invited to a scientific event at the home of his friend, Dr. Ponnonner. The doctor will be opening an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus to examine the mummy within, and a select group of colleagues gather to watch. Given the title of the story, I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that these modern men of science have a conversation with the mummy. As the American tomb raiders grill their newfound acquaintance on life in ancient Egypt, and vice versa, it becomes difficult to tell which of the two cultures is the more advanced and which the more primitive. Poe satirizes the hubris of scientists and historians, and along the way manages to take digs at everything from the transcendentalist movement to American democracy.
I’m not a diehard Poe fan. I find his work hit-and-miss, but I enjoyed this story greatly and was impressed by his comedic skills. Here Poe exhibits the sort of cynical humor and biting wit that one might expect from Voltaire. A lot of times humor doesn’t hold up well over time, but this work, though published over a century and a half ago, is still fresh enough to make today’s reader laugh out loud.
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