In response to:
Who Are These Coming to the Sacrifice? from the June 15, 1989 issue
To the Editors:
Professor Griffin’s review of Martin Bernal’s Black Athena [NYR, June 15] makes me think that Professor Griffin can hold his tongue more firmly in his cheek, and for a longer time, than I ever could: he is so mild, and tolerant, of what seems a wild case of misplaced enthusiasm that I worry whether his best point might be missed: the rivalry and phthonos of the Greeks and the “useful” existence of Egypt as an exotic, and proverbially mysterious (though not far-distant) bit of monkey-business with which to deride Greek rivals. I might only add a footnote (a guess), namely that Egypt was to some extent a fairly humorous reference in all the rivalries and careerist back-chatting, on the order of using the Persian city of Ekbatana as a kind of humorous Acapulco proverbial for luxury.
Douglas J. Stewart
Jasper Griffin replies:
The idea of Egypt as a joke place is attractive, but I suspect that allusions to Egypt were more like the allusions to Zen Buddhism or Indian mysticism that crop up nowadays when people are trying to be vaguely impressive.
September 28, 1989